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Saturday, March 12, 2011
Red Riding Hood
What big eyes you have: the wolf within. Amanda Seyfried as Valerie in "Red Riding Hood", directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Warner Brothers
by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com FOLLOW
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Oh teenage love, how do I count thee myriad ways of being? Raging hormones, bulging eyeballs, wicked wolves, moonlit nights, lots of music -- but very little joy. Fear will do that, I suppose, but isn't love supposed to defeat fear and joylessness? Rise! Shine! Smile! Love! Eat! Pray! Banish the wolf from thy bosom!
Director Catherine Hardwicke brings her energies and visions to "Red Riding Hood". The drama opened yesterday in theaters across the U.S. and Canada. The time-worn tale of a town in a panic over a wolf is a gleaming hunk of eye candy, but the candy tastes like castor oil.
Amanda Seyfried stars as Valerie. Valerie's sister has been ravaged in the small snowy town of Daggerhorn, and other relatives will suffer. Decorous, dripping with the honey-dewed pallor found in Mills & Boon romance novels or airport books of amour, "Red Riding Hood" is neither great nor funny, but mostly awkward as it ambles shakily in its attempt to reconcile its story with the visual beauty that dominates it.
Valerie's arranged suitor is Henry (Max Irons), a dull, privileged soul who can offer Valerie the world, except a personality and possibility, while the man she hungers for, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) seems not to take much notice of her. Independent of the tragedies that have befallen or surrounded them, all three look so joyless and sad throughout "Red Riding Hood". The wolf must be lying in wait, chuckling from the sidelines at this weak-kneed sideshow.
Ms. Hardwicke has groomed teenage love and desire before in "Twilight", the immensely popular film that helped catapult Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner to stardom. The vampires ruled and defeated the wolfen creatures of that film and the global box office in the process.
In "Red Riding Hood" wolves lurk, of course, within the human heart. Some notorious citizens try to vanquish the beast who torments and mauls Daggerhorn. Wafting with its campy scent, the metaphorical aspects of "Red Riding Hood" are all too clear, and displayed in numerous ways. The predictable nature of Ms. Hardwicke's film leaves you waiting for the inevitable. The film has its share of good actors, including the legendary Julie Christie, but she and others look like they are all in on this old wolf trick. The more sadistic side of you says: "let this gorgeous little wolf gobble up these hapless people on the double-quick, and be done with it all so I can leave the theater feeling not-so goody-good about myself." Or something not like that.
Ms. Hardwicke builds an evocative atmosphere with fine art direction, but the love story presented lacks a solid heartbeat, feeling more obligatory than organic. The film's poor dialogue provokes laughter, mostly derisive. "Red Riding Hood" provides opportunities for its audience to mock it. The characters engaged in the ruins or ruminations of love are tentative, gripped with inaction. Love is supposed to be powerful, dynamic, passionate. In "Red Riding Hood" potential lovers are jaded at best, if not outright cynical.
The film imposes its music score on you, forcing you to notice it. "Red Riding Hood" attempts to build suspense and feeling with its music and primal jolts but winds up lampooning itself. Ms. Hardwicke has more enthusiasm in the creation of the visions than writer David Leslie Johnson does in contouring and galvanizing the script. It's worth noting that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of three producers of "Red Riding Hood".
The director has captured love and teens in jeopardy prior to "Twilight" with her jarring drama "Thirteen", a film as nakedly honest and probing as any you'll see on teenage girls. "Red Riding Hood" by contrast, lacks depth as a film, let alone a constituent of the genre of period drama from which it comes. Films like "The Company Of Wolves", via Neil Jordan, conjured more fear and dread than this candy-confectioned presentation.
Over-directed with vertiginous camera moves, "Red Riding Hood" swirls with aerial views of Daggerhorn's snowy, wintry confines. Ms. Hardwicke's new film calls to mind parts of Mike Nichols' "Wolf", with Michelle Pfeiffer. Here, Ms. Seyfried (pronounced Sigh-frid) brings adult intelligence, innocence and contained sexuality to Valerie. The lead actress flaunts expressive, doe-eyed sensuality to a ordered film that doesn't deserve her skills and smarts.
Valerie seems unconcerned with the wolf. Valerie's a humanist who follows her heart. Valerie is apt to say to the marauding wolf, "talk to the hand", as she pursues true love. "Later for your lustful ways, wolf -- I've got priorities to satisfy. Make love, not lunacy. Sigh. Swoon."
I picture the wolf responding: "My, Amanda, what big eyes you have."
With: Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke, Lukas Haas.
"Red Riding Hood" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality. The film's running time is one hour and 41 minutes.
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