With the exception of teenage vampire heartthrobs, "Red Riding Hood" feels distinctly like a second try for "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke. It doesn't take much to see the similarities between the two quasi-horror teen romances.
Twisting the classic fairy tale, "Red Riding Hood" is a rather heartless romance about werewolves -- except this time they keep their shirts on and live in the Dark Ages. Imagine "Twilight" characters in medieval clothing, and you get the idea.
Now before I manage to alienate an entire female demographic, let me assure you that although I wasn't a huge "Twilight" fan, "Red Riding Hood" -- much to my surprise -- was actually moderately enjoyable.
It certainly wasn't a great film, but at least it didn't make my stomach churn.
The story is set in a small, beautiful looking village on the edge of a dark forest. If anything about this movie can be called superb, it was the gorgeous, sweeping landscape. I seriously wanted to live there.
Amanda Seyfried, whom I've been a big fan of since "Dear John," plays Valerie, the film's love-conflicted heroine. She betrothed to Henry (Max Irons), a rich man she doesn't love, and is forced to deny her lifelong true love of Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a poor woodcutter.
Thrown into the mix is a vicious man-eating CGI werewolf. The beast looks remarkably similar (almost identical, even) to the canines in "Twilight." The beast has been plaguing the village for decades, although the villagers keep an uneasy peace with the creature by offering the best of their flocks every full moon.
However, that changes when the wolf starts killing humans and the villagers call in a priest/werewolf hunter to slay the creature.
As seems to be popular in movies lately, we meet the corrupt, selfish, and godless Catholic priest. Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) informs the villagers that the werewolf is living among them, and suddenly everyone suspects their neighbor.
Maybe it is one of the love interests? Maybe it's grandma?! Oh, and yes the iconic phrase "Grandma, what big eyes you've got ..." is in the film. It's actually quite a good scene.
In terms of plot, the mystery is the film's strong suit. Try as I might, I couldn't quite predict who the wolf was really was. And I was surprised and pleased when it was finally revealed.
But as far as the love story goes, the plot left much to be desired. Although Seyfried is great, her male companions are completely without passion. Attempts are made to heat the story up with some moderately naughty love scenes, but honestly, the romance just never felt real.
And in case you're wondering, this isn't a family film. In terms of content it's somewhere between "Twilight" and last year's R-rated "Wolfman." It's violent, it has some disturbing gore, torture and steamy love scenes. Filmmakers were careful to maintain its PG-13 rating, but only just.
This movie gets an average WARM (3 of 5) from me. I'm not sure I'd recommend it , but the film was solid. Good enough to be lightly enjoyed and not bad enough to really be annoying.
RATING: WARM (3 of 5)
"Red Riding Hood," is rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.