Catherine Hardwicke was dumped from directing the Twilight Saga after one movie, before the werewolves showed up. Red Riding Hood is an unconvincing argument that she could've handled those sexy beasts.
Red Riding Hood is a timid new take on the old fairy tale, and it's pretty grim. The monster resembles a Westminster Dog Show reject, villagers behave like extras in a dinner theater version of The Crucible, and when Hardwicke isn't cribbing from Twilight, she's emulating The Wicker Man.
Sorry for all the disparaging references to other entertainments but that's how Hardwicke rolls, and flops.
Now the innocent child visiting Grandma's house has a name (Valerie) and simmering hormones, portrayed with porcelain doll somnolence by Amanda Seyfried. Valerie is an only child after her sister is killed by the werewolf in the forest and bored with animal sacrifices that Daggerhorn residents line-dance through to keep him away.
Valerie met the creature and it telepathically spoke to her, so she's accused of being a witch, publicly humiliated by being forced to wear an iron possum-head mask. That's the idea of visiting werewolf hunter Solomon (Gary Oldman, playing to rafters that aren't there). Solomon also brought a large, elephant-shaped Dutch oven to town, the better to roast suspected witches, my dear.
Any mystery of which Daggerhornian is full-moonlighting as a werewolf is easily solved. Just notice who's never around when the CGI blur attacks. The movie's only unknown is which poster boy for teenage lust Valerie will choose. You know, like Bella in Twilight.
Henry (Max Irons) is the sensitive Robert Pattinson type with a touch of immature dimness; when he tells Valerie "I made something for you," you expect him to hand over a Popsicle stick trivet. Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) is the dark, brooding Taylor Lautner clone, although doubling that hunk's expressions to two. He's the bad boy that Mom (Virginia Madsen) doesn't want Valerie hanging around, so of course she joins him for two teasing rolls in the hay. Advantage to Team Peter.
Red Riding Hood is the sort of silly, thrill-free movie in which the command "Run!" means turn on the slo-mo camera. Its idea of a scary forest is trees with tusk-sized thorns growing from their trunks, and nobody getting impaled. Werewolf victims appear to have died solely from facial scratches, except for a sliced-off arm dropping bloodlessly to the snowy ground.
Any of these problems might be solved simply by Hardwicke realizing the ridiculousness she's dealing with here. Give the audience an occasional wink to suggest, sure it's junk but isn't it fun? Red Riding Hood has the distinct odor of creative revenge, as if Hardwicke is straining to prove she shouldn't have been kicked off the Twilight gravy train.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.