Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the original “Twilight” movie, returns to the genre in the new fantasy “Red Riding Hood.” Hardwicke replaces the blood-sucking vampires of her earlier film with a murderous wolf that terrorizes a small community in this tired update of the well-known tale. Like “Twilight,” this story focuses on teenage romance set against the backdrop of supernatural forces.
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is the teenager caught between two boys in this story. She’s in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a local boy who has known her since she was little. Peter loves her as well and the two of them want to run away together. Unfortunately, Henry (Max Irons) is also in love with Valerie and has her mother’s support. Suzette, Valerie’s mother (Virginia Madsen), has arranged for Valerie to marry Henry despite her daughter’s wishes. As the romance plays out, a local wolf begins hunting for human flesh.
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The wolf isn’t a new visitor to the small town. The townspeople know it lives in the woods and lay out food for it on a regular basis. However, when Valerie’s sister turns up dead, the locals start searching for the violent animal. Eventually, a priest named Soloman (Gary Oldman) arrives to find the wolf himself. Soloman has a history of hunting wolves and quickly informs the townspeople that the wolf is an actual person in town who transforms into the deadly beast.
Oldman is one of the very few things to like about this story. His presence alone brings gravitas to this teeny-bopper love triangle. It’s fascinating to watch a solid actor appear in a story that demands little acting from its lead actors, who look like they got lost on the way to a “Gossip Girl” audition. Even in his bland role, Oldman is still highly watchable in this melodramatic mess.
Because of the weak story, none of the actors have strong characters that they can develop. The script itself is, at times, laughably bad. Characters either say things simply to advance the plot or they spit out over-dramatic lines that would seem out of place on “Days of Our Lives.” Many viewers likely won’t care who Valerie ends up with. They’ll only worry that the wolf won’t have the appetite to swallow them both.
Ultimately, “Red Riding Hood” feels like the kind of sequel to “Twilight” that even the main actors from that film wouldn’t want to be in. Instead of using the same characters, the writers created a similar situation where a teenage girl has to make difficult decisions about the man she loves. Billy Burke, who played Bella’s father in “Twilight,” also shows up to play Valerie’s father. Both “Twilight” and “Red Riding Hood” may have settings that are beautiful to look at but they are both terrible to sit through.
Alas, there’s not much else to like about the dead on arrival “Red Riding Hood.” Gary Oldman tries to elevate the proceedings but “Red Riding Hood” isn’t worth salvaging. Julie Christie also shows up as Valerie’s grandmother and there is the inevitable scene where Valerie says “what big eyes you have” to her. I only wish that the creators of this film used their eyes (and their brains) to create something more compelling than this disappointing drama.