Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Video review: "Red Riding Hood"

I wanted to like "Red Riding Hood" -- an inertly erotic, Gothic version of the parable from director Catherine Hardwicke -- but it's so dreadfully self-serious that it often ends up just being silly.

Hardwicke, who helmed the first "Twilight" movie before leaving the franchise, has a keen eye and sumptuous visual style. Her version of a girl plagued by a deadly werewolf has a lush, dreamy quality, as if the picture is indistinct around the edges.

Here, Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, a virginal town girl with a carnally curious nature. She has not one but two suitors: Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the poor woodcutter who's loved her since childhood, and Henry (Max Irons), the spoiled but not entirely unworthy rich boy who's been promised Valerie's hand in marriage.

When a ghostly wolf threatens the village, help arrives in the form of Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a lycanthrope-hunting priest whose style is closer to Inquisition than Saint Francis.

Other characters flitting around the edges of the story are a meek priest (Lukas Haas) and Valerie's grandmother (Julie Christie), who lives alone deep in the woods with her bubbling cauldron.

David Johnson's screenplay devolves into a woefully misguided whodunit, in which the audience tries to figure out who is secretly the werewolf. Meanwhile, Hardwicke indulges in plenty of her own excesses, including a medieval dance session with the village teens that resembles a modern rave.

It never pays to sex up the classics.

Extra features are quite skimpy for the DVD version, but improve greatly upon upgrading to the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

The DVD contains only a single goodie: Several deleted scenes.

The combo pack, dubbed the "Alternate Cut," features a director's cut that's slightly different from the theatrical version, including a new ending.
There is also a picture-in-picture commentary with Hardwicke, Seyfried, Fernandez and Irons -- I only wish more films included such participation by the principal cast members.

There are also another dozen or so featurettes and Easter Eggs, including casting tapes, footage from rehearsals, music video, gag reel and more.

Plus, a digital copy of the film.

Movie: 1.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3.5 stars

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