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Red Riding Hood (2011)
Red Riding Hood is an American/Canadian dark fantasy film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and starring Amanda Seyfried as the title role, from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson. It is very loosely based on the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood collected by both Charles Perrault under the name "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge" (Little Red Riding Hood) and several decades later by the Brothers Grimm as "Rotkäppchen" (Little Red Cap). Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young woman who lives in the village of Daggerhorn, on the edge of a forest plagued by a werewolf, with her parents, Cesaire (Billy Burke) and Suzette (Virginia Madsen). She is in love with the woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry Henry Lazar (Max Irons), son of the wealthy blacksmith Adrian Lazar (Michael Shanks). Valerie and Peter plan to run away together, only to learn that the Wolf has broken its truce not to prey on the townspeople in exchange for cattlestock sacrifices and has murdered Valerie's older sister, Lucie, whom Valerie discovers was the illegitimate daughter of Adrian, with whom Suzette had an extra-marital affair.
If you thought Twilight was a gloomy slog, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Red Riding Hood, at the risk of sounding oxymoronic, is a menacing bore -- its heavily-staged monotony bears down on the audience, threatening to put us all to sleep at any moment. Then a horribly animated CG wolf jumps out and growls into the camera, and we wake up to laugh at how completely ridiculous it all is.
The film is a gothic re-imagining of the classic folk tale, and if you are wondering how such a short and simple story could be stretched to fill a feature length running time, I'll tell you: it isn't. The story is not extended, but rather replaced with a completely invented medieval horror framework that not only overwhelms the basic tenets of the source material, but renders said material all but irrelevant. Red Riding Hood is not so much a creative extension of a legend, but a modern emo-thriller that usurps a legend's title and then ignores the legend itself.
Amanda Seyfried headlines the film as the titular heroine, though in this version she is given a name, Valerie, which feels wrong in a way that illustrates the oddness of the entire film: everything that is mythical and suggestive from the original story is saddled with earthbound attributes that kill any and all sense of wonder or intrigue. Valerie lives on an elaborately art directed movie set intended to represent the Middle Ages, where her town is plagued by a werewolf -- that's right, not simply a wolf, but a werewolf. The true identity of this cursed individual who transforms into a ravenous creature becomes the central focus of the film, which swiftly devolves into what feels like a crime procedural by way of the Brothers Grimm (but not in a good way).
Gary Oldman turns up to not merely chew, but absolutely gobble the scenery as if his paycheck depended on it, as Father Solomon, a "werewolf hunter" who shouts every word he speaks. A typical dialogue sample: "A man bitten...is a man CURSED!" Because since it is a werewolf, a bite will obviously turn the victim into a wolf. But during the three-day period of the Blood Moon, when the wolf prowls at night, the townspeople can hunt the creature, and Valerie becomes the subject of suspicion because she can communicate with the wolf, who speaks in a gruff Southern drawl...are you as confused as I am?
What purpose is there to adding endless expository material to a simple story? Absolutely none, other than indulging the filmmakers' preoccupation with nauseating melodrama and attempting to lure the Twi-hard crowd. There is more subtextual curiosity to some of the original iterations of the Red Riding Hood story than even come close to being probed in this film, where the iconography of a red cape and a salivating wolf are plunked into a Burton-Luhrmann mash-up that is neither meaningful nor entertaining.