I remember when I first saw the trailer for Red Riding Hood, I was shocked by how much whichever marketing department threw it together wanted it to look like Twilight. Sure, I understand the idea: throwing a net out to adolescent girls, hoping that familiar names, images, and themes will lure them into the theatres for another romp of cat-calling (wolf-calling, I suppose) and confused lust. And, maybe there are some similarities between the two movies, but what the trailer fails to do is tell you that, however you feel about the Twilight franchise, you will feel nostalgic for it after watching Red Riding Hood.
The second the movie ended, I turned to the person next to me and said three words: “Dumb. As. F***.” As it had been advertised to me, the movie is supposed to have two things going for it: a romantic story and the mystery of who the wolf is.
The first promise falls apart nearly immediately. We’re told it’s a love triangle, but it’s really a linear relationship, with an attempted interruption by someone too noble to get in the way of “true love.” The two male romantic leads, Shiloh Fernandez (who looks kind of like a leather clad Milo Ventimiglia) and Max Irons (imagine a cross between Robert Pattinson and Neville Longbottom) are distractingly bad in their performances. Any scene with a combination of Fernandez, Irons, and Amanda Seyfried follows a set ritual: Speak a cliché, pause long enough to make it seem like you forgot your lines, speak a cliché, repeat. It’s ridiculous; the pauses are long enough to wonder if you’re actually watching two people doing an international news interview with a multi-second tape delay.
This is not to say that the words that are being spoken would be improved by pushing them closer together. The film cannot decide on what kind of a tone it’s trying to create. Sometimes, the language if modern and accessible, and other times, even with the same character, they will dramatically switch to an archaic, or at least pretentious tone. Take Fernandez’s Peter, for instance. He’ll be suave and modern when he’s trying to get the goodies out of Valerie’s (Seyfriend) picnic basket, but when he explains his escape from a giant metal elephant, he yells about how he was “trapped in that brazen beast for hours!” That’s not applause you’re hearing; that’s the sound of every person in the theatre slapping their foreheads in disappointed awe.
As for the whole mystery about who the wolf is, you’re either going to enjoy it or you’re not. It is possible to guess the wolf’s identity in the first 10 minutes, and if you hold fast to that belief, ignoring and and all red herrings thrown your way, you will feel smug that you guessed it from the start, but even more disappointed because you didn’t get tugged along by the last hour of the movie.
And then there’s Gary Oldman. In pretty-okay movies, Oldman tends to steal the show (examples: The Professional and True Romance), but apparently, when truly dragged down by the film around him, Oldman seems like he can’t be bothered to come up with something incredible. Everyone who I have seen in other films is at their worst here, including Oldman and Billy Burke (who was pretty bad when I saw Drive Angry just a week and a half ago!
Some people may argue that they didn’t go see the movie in order to, y’know, see a good story, or good acting, or be entertained. No, they went to see it because of the aesthetics of the woodsy town or the cinematic splendour that was introduced in the trailer, with a long red cloak being blown all over a snowy mountainside. But honestly, this isn’t Avatar, and there’s nothing ground-breaking being done visually here. You can find better-looking Little Red Riding Hood-themed visuals within about two minutes on DeviantArt.