Thursday, March 17, 2011

“Red Riding Hood” – My, what insipid crap you’ve shat.

How do you know when a director isn’t even trying? It’s a hard question to answer when you aren’t lucky enough to witness the actual production of the film. She might be upset about only getting to direct movies featuring teens, werewolves, more teens, teen love triangles, more teens…and is purposely tanking the film. She also might just be that bad. Either way, Catherine Hardwicke can’t be proud of her version of Red Riding Hood.

What big eyes you have. The better to squeeze shut against the terrible acting and amateur set design.

Hardwicke spent much of her career as a production designer so there is no excuse for some of the indolent visuals we were forced to endure. The movie begins with a sweeping aerial shot of a forest, which could have easily been harvested from her Twilight editing room floor. The laziness continues into the town of Daggerhorn (seriously) which appeared to have been built by a high school theater student in woodshop. The buildings are caricatures of medieval thatch houses and built on stilts for some unexplained reason, none of the villagers are wearing coats in a village covered in snow, and we are introduced to a spiky-treed forest. In an homage to Plan Nine from Outer Space, the spikes are very obviously attached to the trees with some sort of tarry substance with zero attempt to blend it into the bark.

Not to be underdone, the actors did as little as possible to earn their paychecks. Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood) spent most of the movie trying not to ruin the dozens of shots of her gigantic eyeballs by not blinking. Gary Oldman may or may not have been drunk, hamming up his role of werewolf hunter/priest with a faux-Russian accent. Julie Christie played the grandmother – and red herring – also hamming it up trying to convince us that she was the wolf. The two boys who complete the Red Riding Hood teenage love triangle were so wooden that the names Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons should become official synonyms to two-by-four. Rounding out the (mis)cast are Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke (Hood’s parents) who, at best, didn’t give a shit.

What big ears you have. The better to plug my fingers with to block the absurd dialogue and embarrassing story.

You know a script is terrible when a great actor such as Gary Oldman doesn’t even attempt to save it. In yet another attempt to cash in on the teen vampire/werewolf/forbidden love fad, Red Riding Hood features two young men vying for a damsel’s love while the village is terrorized by a wolf, who is actually a werewolf and also one of the villagers. The local priest summons Father Solomon to deal with the problem since he is known as a werewolf hunter. He informs the village that this is the time of the blood moon – the time when a werewolf’s bite changes a person into a werewolf rather than killing that person. As the villagers are busy suspecting each other, the teen love triangle blooms into a series of awkward/inane scenes punctuated by murders of villagers by the wolf. These things don’t really have anything to do with each other, but unfortunately, that’s the movie. Like everyone else involved in the production of the film, the writers were vying to be the worst cog in the wheel by trying to trick us into thinking the werewolf was the grandmother when in fact it was…someone else. Apparently, they assumed that the audience had forgotten that part of the fairy tale where the wolf EATS THE GRANDMOTHER.

What big teeth you have. The better to grind in fury as nearly two hours of my life are taken by a movie that wasn’t even decent enough to distract me with bloody violence or nudity.

The movie moves along so slowly that you find yourself questioning every aspect of the film as you see it. Why did Gary Oldman bring a full-sized metal elephant with him? He’s torturing the village idiot inside the metal elephant? There’s a village idiot? If the wolf can jump over houses (it can), why are they built on stilts? The wolf is also telepathic? The wolf is nearly as big as the elephant? The townspeople haven’t noticed in twenty years that someone goes missing every month? On and on and on.

By the end, we were just hoping for some good old-fashioned blood and guts, or maybe a bare breast or two, but this movie was rated PG-13. The closest we get to nudity is Seyfried’s bodice about to be torn off by one of the boys while rolling around in the barn when a noise distracts. We turn to the see the wolf tearing people’s limbs off – and hoping to be gratified by some gore – but the victims seem to have no blood flowing through them. Even slashes to the face don’t bleed – they just turn red. The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that, while advertised as being two hours long (I checked two different sources for this information), it really comes in at an hour and forty minutes. That’s how you can tell when a director isn’t trying.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back. You might as well recycle it for the fourth Twilight movie later this year (though I’m guessing I’ll be telling you to ask for that back as well).

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