Main cast: Amanda Seyfried (Valerie), Virginia Madsen (Suzette), Billy Burke (Cesaire), Julie Christie (Grandmother), Shiloh Fernandez (Peter), Max Irons (Henry Lazar), Gary Oldman (Father Solomon), Michael Shanks (Adrien Lazar), Adrian Holmes (The Captain), Michael Hogan (The Reeve), and Lukas Haas (Father Auguste)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
It’s pretty clear that Red Riding Hood exists because back in those days, these people wanted to keep going the money-making bandwagon that is the young adult fantasy romance franchise, which started with Twilight and crashed downhill ever since. They even got the same director and some of the cast members of that franchise carried over to this one, and even better, since Little Red Riding Hood is a fairy tale, there are no pesky, screaming authors to pay or pander to.
Hence, while the movie poster and trailer make this one out to be some fantasy horror film, for the most part this is a teen soap opera. Valerie, our heroine, spends a lot of time being torn between her true love, dreamy woodcutter Peter, and the bloke her parents want her to marry, the square-jawed blacksmith Henry Lazar. Oh, the pain of following her heart or her obligation. Meanwhile, she is also the subject of petty jealousies from other young ladies because no matter how much Valerie may try to put on an air of being an ingénue, she’s actually super hot to trot.
Even the appearance of a werewolf that kills her older sister Lucie is merely a plot device to have Valerie veering left and right because, really, everything is about her. The arrival of an overzealous werewolf hunter, Father Solomon, spells problem—not just because his zeal causes him to be even more cruel than the werewolf, oh no. It’s also because his presence is the catalyst for problems that drive home how much poor Valerie is a hapless victim of other people’s jealousy of how beautiful and special she is. Even more hilariously, she is the only one that can communicate with the werewolf, and the werewolf wants her to join him, because in the end, Valerie is just this super special and totally hot babe around whom the entire universe revolves around.
Amanda Seyfried is a much more expressive and capable actress than her plank counterpart in the Twilight movies, but she’s subjecting herself to an uphill climb here. The two actors playing her love interest and the other bloke are both as bland as can be, as if nobody bothered to develop these characters beyond simply checking off the items on the “Formulaic, Generic Young Adult Fantasy Male Love Interest” list. Everyone else merely exists to fill up space in a scene, aside from Gary Oldman that is just chewing scenery just enough to fulfill the obligations of his contract. Even the story is basically a checking off all the items on a list designed to serve up the most cynical, bland, and formulaic young adult movie cash-in as possible. Folks that have read or watched enough of these things can see the twists and turns in this movie coming from a mile away.
The ending scene hints of joyful bestiality in the woods, though—that, at least, is something I don’t see often in this genre.
One good thing about Red Riding Hood is how beautiful the set pieces and the cast members are. This is a gorgeous movie to look at, for what that’s worth. It’s so underwhelming in every other department, though, that it’s best treated as an unfortunate reminder of a short time in 21st century movie history, when cynics believe that teenage girls are stupid enough to gobble every formulaic swill thrown their way. Thank goodness such films are now quarantined in Netflix, leaving the rest of the world to relax their guard a little when they sit down to watch a movie.