MARCH 11, 2011
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
Considering that I didn’t mind Twilight, I figured Red Riding Hood might be an enjoyable surprise. The trailers did nothing for me, but it had a cast full of folks I dig (Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Lukas Haas, Virginia Madsen) and the script was by none other than Orphan scribe David Leslie Johnson – surely the trailers were “wrong” and this might actually be pretty good, right? Wrong. Oh, so so wrong. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the worst movie I’ve seen theatrically since the Nightmare On Elm Street remake, and then some.
Not a single thing about the film worked. For starters, for something built around a love triangle, they sure do a piss-poor job giving the girl caught in the “middle” look like she has any real conflict about it. Say what you will about Twilight’s confused and borderline stalker-y approach to relationships, at least they put SOME effort into showing why Bella is torn – she can be "herself" with Jacob, but Edward’s the one who gets her all hot and bothered (and does so with his shirt on). But here, her choices are a nice enough fellow who she is being forced to marry and shares almost zero one on one scenes with, or the guy she’s been in love with since they were children. I’m sorry, where exactly is the conflict, here? It’s like being ‘torn’ between choosing a delicious slice of cake or stale saltines.
I mean, you’d think after Twilight that Catherine Hardwicke would have a grasp on how to create a compelling romantic drama in a horror/fantasy setting, but if anything she botches it even more than she did there. I suppose we can blame Johnson’s bland script (assuming he wasn’t rewritten or something – I am aghast at how someone who wrote something as whacked out and great as Orphan could produce something this tedious), but a good director would be able to transcend the weaknesses of a script. It’s also a largely ugly looking film; I was rather shocked to discover that it was shot on film and not with the Red or something, because it was so flat and lifeless throughout. I assume the sets and costumes were SUPPOSED to look fake in order to play into the fairy tale motif, but if not they screwed that up as well – I half expected M. Night Shyamalan to walk out in his park ranger outfit from The Village.
The werewolf mystery is a total failure as well (spoilers ahead!). There are a ton of suspects, but it turns out to be her dad (Burke), which would have been interesting if he hadn’t all but completely disappeared from the film after a half hour or so. It’s a good thing he appears in the Twilight films, since their audience will be the only ones seeing this goddamn thing – it’s the only way they’ll even remember who he is when he is revealed, because it had been so long since he had done anything of significance. And then he goes into exposition mode, explaining the entire plot thus far, aided with flashbacks of stuff we just saw. They might as well have put the Saw theme over the scene while they were at it. And again this is entirely botched – you’d think a girl finding out her own father was a monster would be upset or scared, but Amanda Seyfried just stands there making that same pleasantly curious face she makes throughout the entire movie. It’s just a giant shrug of a climax, but then again so was everything that led up to it.
Seyfried also added nothing to the movie – I really don’t get her appeal. She was OK in Jennifer’s Body, but in this and everything else I’ve seen of her, she’s just very bland, and doesn’t quite have what it takes to carry this kind of film. She’s also wrong for this sort of fairy tale stuff; maybe it was the Sucker Punch ads blanketing the entire city, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much more suited Emily Browning would have been for the movie. Now there’s a girl who looks like she walked out of a fairytale – Seyfried looks like she just walked out of a hipster clothing store in Bed-Stuy. In fact, they seemingly went out of their way to find actors that looked out of place in the period setting; only Michael Hogan (in a brief turn as one of the townsmen) and Julie Christie “fit”, everyone else looks like they’re in a high school production. Again to bring up The Village – they should have just realized this halfway through production and made it part of the movie, so at least there would be an excuse for the lack of authentic period feeling. Like, they were a theater group in the year 2011 trying to revive the Renaissance period, and suddenly found themselves in a real life big bad wolf scenario. Terrible idea, yes, but at least it would justify how cheap everything looked.
The callbacks to the original tale are laughably bad as well. Poor Julie Christie has to suffer through the worst of the lot, doing the whole “What big eyes you have!” bit with Seyfried during a nightmare scene that is somehow obvious as a nightmare and yet STILL ridiculous, but the others aren’t exactly better. The “three little pigs” in particular make an appearance during the scene that will remind viewers of the awful “rave” scene from Matrix Reloaded, and Red gets her Riding Hood as an early wedding present directly after a scene where she got something else as an early wedding gift – for Christ’s sake, save some gifts for the actual wedding, people!
And then there’s the matter of the werewolf’s voice. Sure, it’s part of the story and I guess I can give them credit for making it a voice that only Seyfried can hear in her head as opposed to a talking wolf, but it’s still embarrassingly bad. Whoever it was doing the voice inexplicably did so using a Jackie Earl Haley “Rorschach” (or Freddy, natch) delivery, and when coupled with the horrid CGI creation they whipped up (which manages to look WORSE than the Twi-wolves), it just becomes a perfect storm of bad ideas.
There’s nothing even worth recommending on a minor level. There’s an early hunt scene that seems like it might be exciting but it’s over in like two seconds. Gary Oldman has some fun chewing the scenery and giving the film an obligatory metaphor for modern times, as a tyrannical leader who takes away civil liberties in the pursuit of making the world safe (zzzz), but his subplot is never really allowed to take center stage, and during his final scenes he kills a guy for no reason, which goes unnoticed by the rest of the town. And what the hell is up with the elephant statue that he uses as a torture oven? Hell, I can’t even say “at least the score was good”, because the music was bizarrely anachronistic and wholly forgettable.
I hope no one reads this and thinks “man, I have to see this disaster for myself!” This isn’t spectacle bad, it’s just an inert bore from start to finish. I’m actually kind of stunned at how uninteresting it was. And the audience seemed to agree – no one jumped at the scare scenes, laughed at the halfhearted attempts at humor, or even seemed to care about anything on screen. And at one point I could hear two different people snoring - granted it was late, but if you’re going out at midnight to see a movie on opening day you must have some interest in the film, right? Trust me, there are better things to spend your money on. Go back and read my Twilight review – I’m not too “proud” to admit when a teen movie is relatively entertaining, and I like to think I have a good sense of when a movie may not be working for me but can work for its intended audience. But with this, barring some sort of insane crush on Seyfried, or the long wait between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn making you starved for anything even remotely similar to Twilight, I cannot possibly fathom how anyone would enjoy it on a legitimate OR ironic level.
What say you?