The swell of critical anguish toward 'Red Riding Hood', a contemporary reimagining of the old fairytale, meant that prior to viewing I had expected something ridiculous and laughable. But, in fairness, 'Red Riding Hood' was not quite as abysmal as I'd been led to believe. Indeed, fans of the 'Twilight' saga might well enjoy it.
I'm not sure it's particularly revelatory to state that I'm not much of a 'Twilight' fan, however. Nonetheless, I was perfectly willing to give the director of the first film of that series, Catherine Hardwicke, a fair go with her take on 'Red Riding Hood'. Although by the end of it, I couldn't help feeling that this was just a 'Twilight' prequel of sorts.
In the film, Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, aka the "Little Red Riding Hood" of the tale, betrothed to Henry (Max Irons) yet in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Valerie and Peter are all set to run away and live happily ever after until they discover that Valerie's older sister has been murdered by its infrequent outside visitor, the village werewolf. How rude.
The village is then besieged by said werewolf, and even with the help of the shady Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) and his band of merry men/dark knights, they struggle to protect one another from the beast. Realising that their best chance of killing the werewolf is when it reverts to its human form, 'Red Riding Hood' transforms itself into a "whodunnit?" as the true identity of the werewolf is sought.
Unfortunately, in attempting to lay the seeds of doubt with almost every major character, it all becomes a bit tired. By the time the werewolf's human identity is revealed, I wasn't really all that interested. And the romantic aspects had failed to grasp me from the outset - writer David Leslie Johnson tying the inception of Valerie and Peter's love to their combined murder of a rabbit(!) as young children.
The acting is equally as uninspiring, with Oldman being a surprising disappointment. Father Solomon becomes neither a staunch anti-hero nor the pantomime villain, instead falling somewhere between the two. Or rather, failing somewhere between the two. Perhaps the tone that Catherine Hardwicke set for the film reined in Oldman, when he might have been better suited delivering an over-the-top performance, similar to his role in 'The Fifth Element'.
For the most part though, 'Red Riding Hood' is passable. At a hundred minutes in length, its pace works well, keeping viewers largely invested in the 'Scooby Doo'-esque aspect of the story, as well as the romance. It is actually the shoe-horned references to the original fairytale that grate the most, although their appearances are extremely limited. Thankfully. I'm not sure I could take much more cringing.
It might not be the "worst movie of 2011" as some critics have claimed (for starters, it's only April) but 'Red Riding Hood' swims in a sea of mediocrity. And while the characters seemingly didn't feel the frost of their snowy terrain - rarely wearing anything resembling a sweater, let alone a coat - 'Red Riding Hood' left me rather cold.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons
'Red Riding Hood' is out on wide release throughout UK cinemas from today.