Two weekends ago PlayItGrand and I trekked to the theater once again to see a movie. I rarely actually go to the movie theater because I’ve found myself so dismayed with the films coming out of Hollywood lately. Everything either seems to be a remake of older films or a rehashing of the same ideas over and over again. Nothing seems to grab my attention anymore. When I see a movie it’s either via iTunes, OnDemand or the rental system on the PS3. However, when PlayItGrand said that Michael Shanks was going to be in Red Riding Hood and that he’d likely be killed, I had to go! Now now, don’t think I had to go so I could giggle when she squeaked every time Michael was on screen. Okay, so that’s part of it. She’s really adorable when she fangirls! I actually wanted to show my support not only for PlayItGrand, but for Michael, who I respect as an actor. Besides, Red Riding Hood had Gary Oldman in it. Who doesn’t love Gary Oldman?
I went into this movie with low expectations and I imagine that’s why it probably wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, though it had its moments. Those who know me know that I have a general distaste for all things Twilight, so a movie directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the same woman who directed the first Twilight movie isn’t #1 on my must see list. Having seen the first Twilight film it’s about as obvious as Edward’s unibrow that a vast majority of shots used in Red Riding Hood are exceedingly similar to those in Twilight. She even uses the sweeping shots of the woods to help set the tone in an entirely uninspired way. In fact, there are so many similarities to Twilight that I honestly thought at any moment we would see a vampire…or at least some glitter.
The plot and characters are excessively thin and weak. We’re expected to believe that Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is madly in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the bad boy woodcutter with Edward Cullen hair. To complicate matters, Valerie is arranged to marry Henry (Max Irons), a sweet and apparently wealthier boy who’s had a crush on Valerie since childhood. This situation would be more believable if there was any chemistry between the characters. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that same chemistry that drew John Crichton and Aeryn Sun together in Farscape. It’s that force you can’t explain but that draws you in. There was no force here. There wasn’t even a gentle tug in the right direction. Steamy scenes between Peter and Valerie were supposed to make us think the pair was madly in love. However the camera’s persistent focus on Seyfried’s boobs made me think they were just the victims of rampant hormones. By the middle of the movie I actually loathed Peter and prayed Valerie would hook up with Henry because Henry was the only one to emote any sort of believable emotion. I was also tired of looking at Seyfried’s boobs.
Continuing with the trend of weak characters, and perhaps contributing to it significantly, was the poor dialogue. When delivered it gave the movie the feel of a high school play rather than a Hollywood production. Not even the ever talented Mr. Oldman could make his character believable with what he was given to work with. The badly written dialogue slowed down the plot and failed to carry the story, making it drag where it should have been interesting.
The production quality of this movie is a dichotomy in itself. On one hand you have a village that was meticulously created and very realistic looking, amid a forest of large trees covered with giant meaningless thorns. However, during several of the outdoors scenes it was painfully obvious they were on a set rather than actually outside. Maybe it was poor lighting or bad cinematography, but it was incredibly distracting.
Gary Oldman brought his considerable talent to this film. He brought it in a caravan, complete with a prison-like carriage containing his daughters, a giant iron elephant and purple velvet robes that may have been stolen from the Liberace museum. Oldman plays Solomon, who Father Auguste (Lukas Haas) keeps referring to as a priest, but I’m still unclear on whether or not he actually was a man of the cloth. Solomon’s main goal in life is to hunt werewolves. See, he’s an expert because his wife was a werewolf and he never knew it…until he accidentally killed her (werewolves take on human form when they’re killed) while trying to rid his village of a pesky wolf. So that makes him an expert…an expert with silver fingernails lined with blood. Hardwicke must have been really pleased with that makeup effect (or it was really expensive) because we saw those fingernails a lot.
Solomon brings with him an entire entourage of soldiers who will help him catch the werewolf. He explains to the village, and a somewhat crestfallen Reeve (played by BSG’s Michael Hogan) holding an obviously fake wolf head on a stake, that they are currently in the middle of a blood moon. Blood moons occur every thirteen years and last for five days. It is during this time that the werewolf can pass along its wolfy goodness to other humans via a bite. The villagers don’t believe him and choose to believe that the wolf was caught (cliché much?). They celebrate that night and guess who comes to dinner?
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of the werewolf = giant freaking wolf model of character design. Yes yes, I know that it’s supposed to be a wolf, but it’s supposed to be a human transformed into a wolf-like creature. After all, there’s a little bit of human in there. The werewolf here is just a giant wolf. However, where this character design succeeded where other giant wolf designs have failed is that this wolf was definitely not pretty. It was drooling and fierce looking, with dangerous eyes and some pretty stealthy moves. Up until the middle of the movie I actually found myself digging what they had done with the wolf…then it all changed. PlayItGrand covers that spoiler in her article so if you read that I’m sure you can infer what I’m talking about. It was a moment, a discovery on Valerie’s part when she comes face to face with the wolf that made me sit back in my seat and go “quoi?”
Believe it or not I actually did have a favorite scene in this movie. It was the moment where the film reverted back to the classic tale of Red Riding Hood. Valerie is lying in bed next to her grandmother (played by the “way too young to be a grandmother” Julie Christie). After waking up she studies her grandmother’s features and as she speaks her paranoia over who the wolf might be sinks in and she starts to notice changes to her elder’s features.
Valerie: Grandmother what big ears you have!
Grandmother: The better to hear you with my dear.
Valerie: Grandmother what big eyes you have!
Grandmother: The better to see you with my dear.
Valerie: Grandmother what big teeth you have!
Grandmother: The better to eat you with my dear!
This scene sticks out not only because of the reference to the original tale, but for the way in which it was shot and performed. It made me smile to see the classic dialogue between the wolf and Red Riding Hood used in a movie that is supposed to expound on that tale.
Despite having the same overall quality as a Saturday afternoon SyFy movie, I can see where this movie would have its appeal. The best way to describe this film is to say that it’s brain candy. You don’t need to think, you just need to sit your butt down and watch. It’s okay if you get up and go to the bathroom. You can miss 10 minutes and understand what’s going on. If you’re looking for a quality werewolf movie you’re wasting your money. But if you want to see a movie that may qualify as candy for your brain you’ve come to the right place.
I give Red Riding Hood two out of five gypsy wagons for its unintentional humor, weak characters, plot and dialogue and because it had Gary Oldman and Michael Shanks in it (which bumped it up to two wagons).