Review: RED RIDING HOOD

“Red Riding Hood” is another failed attempt to “Twilight” a fairy tale. Neither a horror film nor an effective teen-skewing romantic fable, “Red Riding Hood” fails to find the teen lit niche it seeks.

This telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story has Amanda Seyfried playing the girl in red. In “Hood,” a small village is terrorized by a werewolf. When a young girl is killed, the men from the town set out to kill the beast. And when they think they’ve accomplished that task, they’re visited by an infamous werewolf slayer (played by Gary Oldman), who proves to be more terrifying than the beast itself. The slayer tells the townspeople that they are not safe and the wolf lives among them. A mystery evolves with a lot of melodramatic finger pointing.

“Red Riding Hood” suffers from the same problems that marked last week’s “Beastly.” The plot is intriguing but the dialogue and acting are not up to the challenge. While starlet Seyfried comes off best, the collection of talent around her can’t transcend the poor writing. Gary Oldman gets the worst of it adopting an odd accent that seems to float as he chews through his scenes. The character Oldman plays has great potential but this is a movie about teens in peril, which puts the emphasis on the youngsters.

The mystery in the film concerning the identity of the wolf could have been handled better. What’s missing is a detective. Sure, the slayer is menacing and uses harsh interrogation tactics, but what “Red Riding Hood” needs is Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane character from “Sleepy Hollow.” Had there been a geeky detective collecting clues leading him (or her) to the wolf, we may have forgiven the poor acting and awful dialogue. But instead the viewer never invests intellectually in the mystery. There’s just no fascination value here. Sadly, the love story never connects on an emotional level either. And as “Red Riding Hood” likely fails at the box office, Seyfried’s run as a teen queen may be nearing the end.

There is no mistake that “Red Riding Hood” is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who also helmed the first “Twilight” film. While the direction is adequate, the main problem is that instead of making maximum use of the older cast members that includes an Oscar winner (Julie Christie), the producers think the money is in the teen demographic. And that might be right, but with the exception of Seyfried, this collection of young actors can’t make the material work. The moral of the story is that if you’re going to make a literate romantic movie about teens in danger, you can’t just dress bad material up with old pros.

The model that “Red Riding Hood” should have followed is the Harry Potter franchise, which assembled excellent actors from top to bottom. “Hood’s” producers obviously believe that good looks can overcome poor acting skills and sub par writing. But much like “Beastly,” “Red Riding Hood” proves that a pleasing appearance is sometimes just skin deep.

About Jonathan W. Hickman

Jonathan W. Hickman is a filmmaker, writer, and attorney living in metro Atlanta. His first novel, THE TASTER, is available in bookstores and online.