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"Red Riding Hood" Movie Review

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Uploaded on Mar 10, 2011

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Once upon a time, Catherine Hardwicke was crowned the only female director with the highest ever blockbuster opening for a movie. That was for the film "Twilight" which debuted with a $69.6 million opening.

Then, Summit Entertainment, the studio that "Twilight" built, unceremoniously dumped Hardwicke from helming future movies in the franchise. The director decided to team up with Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way production company for a retelling of the popular fairy tale, "Red Riding Hood," an unpredictable gothic mystery that will be unfairly compared to "Twilight."

Like the vampire romance, "Red Riding Hood" is about a young heroine who must choose between two men. But the narrative similarities between the two movies stop there. Although like "Twilight," "Red Riding Hood" is a bit bland at times, Hardwicke created a whodunit mystery that will have you guessing until the very end.

At the heart of the movie is Valerie (the picture-perfect Amanda Seyfried of "Dear John" and "Mamma Mia!"), she's a young woman with a penchant to wearing a flowing red riding hood. She lives in the village of Daggerhorn where the residents have maintained an uneasy truce with the werewolf.

Every full moon, the werewolf prowls Daggerhorn looking for its victim. In order to avoid its wrath, the people of the village offer the beast a monthly animal sacrifice. But one blood red moon, the wolf changes the stakes -- it decides to kill a human being.

The script by David Leslie Johnson ("Orphan") created a backstory for Valerie and her grandmother (the always captivating Julie Christie) leading to the famous line, "Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"

And like "Orphan," Johnson plays with the viewers' perception, and succeeds in making us guess the real identity of the wolf. But similar to "Orphan," the script has unintentionally funny lines. When Valerie finally comes face to face with the wolf, she murmurs, "There must be a God 'cause you're the devil." To which the wolf laughs hysterically. Can you blame it?

Seyfried is perfect as the lead. She has a pretty ethereal quality that her looks transcend space and time even if she is saddled with ludicrous lines. Sadly, I can't say the same thing for the two lead actors, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons.

Both young actors play characters that are after Valerie's heart. Fernandez is Peter, a poor woodcutter and the love of Valerie's life, while Irons is Henry, the scion of the town's wealthiest family. The actors gave by-the-numbers performances.

Gary Oldman's portrayal of famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon also left me wanting more. Sure, the pace picks up after the introduction of Oldman's character, but the actor is not given any memorable line worthy of his stature. Plus, while the rest of the cast speaks in perfect American English, Oldman is forced to say his dialogue with a Scandinavian meets Transylvanian accent.

I did enjoy the way Hardwicke filmed the action scenes, too bad the wolf sequences are few and far between. I also liked the unpredictability of the wolf's identity. I just wished Hardwicke, known for working with sexual awakening and teenage alienation themes in her films, dug deeper into Valerie's characterization.

As a gothic mystery, "Red Riding Hood" is an enjoyable ride aided by a rich production design. Accept and embrace the film's flaws and you will live happily ever after.

"Red Riding Hood" -- 2 ½ kisses

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