Why Grandma, What A Terrible Movie You've Made!

Red Riding Hood (2011)
A Review by Ben Hunter

1 Out of 5 Stars

A film with a GREAT premise, and a terrible execution of that premise. 

Red Riding Hood is about a girl named Valerie, Amanda Seyfried, who lives in a fantasy pre-historic little town in the middle of the forest.  Since they can remember, the town is plagued by a "wolf" that’s been haunting them.  At a last straw, the men of the town decide to hunt the wolf after it takes the life of one of their loved ones, Valerie's sister.  The town comes to find out that the wolf they capture isn't the real wolf.  Father Solomon, Gary Oldman, hears about the troubles of the town as he lived in a town similar that was haunted by a wolf as well.  So he informs them that the wolf, just like the one his town was haunted by, is really one of the townspeople and one of them transforms and becomes the wolf in the full moon light.  So the mystery begins, as everyone looks at the other, in suspicion of who the wolf really is! 

As I mentioned, a GREAT premise.  The way I just described it, from the trailer, the movie poster (the one sheet/key art) which all depict the way I just described it, really gets one interested in viewing this film.  But I had my doubts going into this, because the director, Catherine Hardwicke, directed the first installment of the Twilight Saga.  If this film was anything like the Twilight films, I knew Red Riding Hood was going to be terrible just like they were.  So "perfectly" made forest sets and log cabins were filled in this story.  Perfectly pale white skin on all the young teen actors, etc.  It was Twilight all over again from the cheesy teen romance in the beginning. 

The producers and people behind the marketing of this film were blinded by the money they could make off of it, as the Twilight films made a lot of money touching the hearts of women all over the world.  Giving them that escape and sense of fantasy in which they seek in girl films, "chick flicks".  But this isn't a chick flick!  We all grew up with this fairytale and it should've been made and marketed for general audiences.  Instead the filmmakers ruined it with cheesy Twilight teen romance.  Valerie is torn between the boy she really loves and the boy her family has set for her to marry because he's economically better for her family. 

KNOW WHO YOU'RE MAKING YOUR MOVIE FOR!  If you want to make it a teen movie, then go all out and do that!  From the trailer and key art it looks more of an older family movie.  The type of movie where mom and dad can see it and be entertained but their teen children can love it as well.  There were senior citizens (who the majority kept checking their phones throughout) in the theater I saw the film in, as well as a lot of the older generation, people of my parents' era and above.  So the marketing of this movie was just terribly wrong as it attracted everyone but was made for younger audiences.  So with my bashing of Twilight, if you were a fan of those films, as they made a lot of money and a lot of people did like them, you'll probably enjoy Red Riding Hood

So you're sold on this idea; you think it's great because you're blinded by the great premise, it'll make a lot of money and appeal to girls like Twilight did, fine.  Directing is universal in the fact that regardless of the genre, good directing can be quite clear as well as bad directing (in addition to weak writing which this film had both poor directing and writing).  So some of shots that Hardwicke decided to go with were very questionable.  For instance, how she decided to show someone being killed while on the ground when they know they're going to their death.  It felt like she straddled the fence here.  Either show the gore, or cleverly with your editing and music put the illusion of death in our minds.  Set up the kill and let our imaginations do the rest since this film is PG-13 and not rated R.

The reveal of the wolf should've been more theatrical and cinematic ... the wolf just appeared.  It was great that we didn't see it in the first big wolf scene, but when it was time to reveal the wolf, I wanted more creativity!  Valerie communicates with the wolf in this scene and the movie then became VERY expositional or preachy as one would say from then on.  "Don't forget about this fact!  I want you to remember this so I'm going to remind you about it!  And then keep reminding you about it!"  I just shook my head in disapproval. 

The acting wasn't what I wanted it to be either.  Amanda Seyfried wasn't as emotionally compelling as I would have liked her to be to carry this film as its lead.  Not even Julie Christie stood out.  Gary Oldman was the only actor that really gave a great performance and strung the movie along to keep my interest.  But since the writing suffered, the filmmakers ruined it with the writing of his character.  The mystery of the wolf that begins when Gary Oldman's character is introduced is really the only good thing about this film.  It's what helps keep it together and not make one walk out on it. That and Gary Oldman's actual performance were the glue that kept the film together, saving it from a complete disaster.  Even in the end I just kept saying, "Please don't end this with a modern day, teen, pop rock song"; and sure enough, that's what happened! 

So to summarize, the film was marketed wrong.  Don't make a variation of the next Twilight movie just to make money.  This is a great example of going the more quality film route to reach true lovers of film and make a lot of money that way.  Instead of "selling out" to cater to a particular demographic just so you can make a ton of money, and hide behind it saying the criticism you receive doesn't matter because you broke the bank with all the money you've made.  If that's the route you want to take, then own it!  Don't straddle the fence!  I can at least respect the Twilight films for owning it and not trying to be something they're not.

Red Riding Hood
Fantasy, 100 Minutes, PG-13
Written by: David Johnson
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, and Gary Oldman

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