Monday, March 14, 2011

Over the River & Through the Tweens

Like many a commodity in the modern age of the economic long tail, pornography is now available for every possible palette. Clown sex? Easy. Grandmas dressed in drag? It’s on the shelf at my Bronx 7/11. Seinfeld parodies and Edward Penishands? C’mon, give Silicone Valley a challenge.
I bring this up to point out an easy one sentence review of Red Riding Hood: if you are a 13 year old girl, this film is your porn.
Dreamy boys with perfect cool guy haircuts fighting for your honor? Check. Pretty clothes and perfect eye makeup that never runs in the constant snow (that never melts)? Check. Those hidden family secrets you’ve always secretly hoped your family had to make your origins more interesting? It’s all there. Gary Oldman in purple velour? Raise your glass of mead!

Quick Plot: As a young girl, Valerie enjoys sneaking off with future lumberjack Peter for wacky rabbit-hunting hijinks. Hey, we were all seven once, am I right?

Flash forward ten years where Valerie has blossomed into the alien eye bulging Amanda Seyfried and Peter is now the sullen kid from Deadgirl sporting a Robert Pattinson gassy look of constant indigestion. Because this is a movie made for the Twilight audience, it’s necessary to have a tepid love triangle. Rounding out the corner is Jeremy Irons’ son as Henry, the wealthy(ish) blacksmith betrothed to Valerie because mom Miss Piggy--I mean, Virginia Madsen--wants her daughter to have a better life than she did with her own lumberjack husband (played by Twilight/Drive Angry alum Billy Burke).

Side note: to my knowledge, Billy Burke is unrelated to the Billie Burke who played Glinda in the second best film of all time, The Wizard of Oz. I find this kind of confusion quite distracting.
BillIE Burke, not

BillY Burke

Moving on, Red--I mean, Li’l Big Eyes--I mean, Valerie has bigger problems than arranged marriage when a werewolf starts terrorizing her village. Enter Gary Oldman in The Greatest Cinematic Entrance Of All Time, i.e., a parade caboosed by an iron elephant and two African armed guards. Oldman plays a witch & werewolf hunting holy man that belongs in every mediocre-to-awful movie ever made. Should director Catherine Hardwicke return to Twilight and digitally insert Gary Oldman’s Father Solomon pointing his sword and scratching the shapeshifting Jacob with his silver fingernails in every other frame, I would be contractually obligated to revise my original review as a now ten (out of four) star movie.

Anyway. Werewolf. Love triangle. Anachronistic and slightly sapphic dance-off followed by a CGI werewolf that talks. Yes, it’s slightly silly, slightly adorable, and naturally, has its yellow eyes on Valerie because dear 13 year old females watching, VALERIE IS YOU!

See, Red Riding Hood knows who’s watching and generally provides plenty of eye and emotional candy to make them happy. One example: Valerie has a sultry makeout session on a hay floor. If you’re 13 and have never had a makeout session, this sounds incredibly romantic. When you’re a wrinkled 29 year old, however, you know that no amount of sexy kissing can possibly be worth the itchiness and minor stabbings experienced when laying on a haystack.

But do we want our 13 year old girls to know such sad and disappointing life facts? Maybe not, and thusly, Red Riding Hood feels like it should gently join the club of Romeo + Juliet and other teenage wet dreamy films. Unlike the Twilight series, Red Riding Hood at least centers itself on a likable, somewhat strong-minded female character that isn’t trying to kill herself when her high school boyfriend leaves town to fix his hair (or something). And you know, everyone’s eye shadow looks great and despite the fact that every single character is at one point suspected of being a homicidal werewolf (save, of course, for the one character who actually IS a homicidal werewolf), the boys are about as threatening as Tostito’s mild salsa. So while I wouldn’t recommend Red Riding Hood to any modern-thinking adult, it certainly has its safe charms for a younger, fantasy happy audience.

High Points
This film features the absolute best, most subtle and unacknowledged act of familial cannibalism ever put onscreen. Also, there’s an iron elephant that burns witches and the most awkward offering-of-virginity scene I’ve witnessed in a PG13 mainstream movie ever. So that’s that
Low Points
A “Grandmother, what big teeth you have” is cheesy even in a film crafted from cheddar
Lessons Learned
Hair gel was all the rage in medieval North America (or whenever the hell this movie took place)

When traveling through small villages, always keep your astronomical diorama on hand. Sure, it’s cumbersome and could easily be substituted with an improvised demonstration involving a few fruits and rocks, but think of the looks of shock and awe those townspeople will display when they see its  Hellraiser-like opening trick
So long as the snow is falling in an elegant manner, there’s no need to ever put on a sweater
If wearing the color red is considered grounds of condemning a woman as a to-be-burned witch, perhaps you shouldn’t, you know, knit a scarlet cape for your granddaughter’s wedding 

See/Skip/Sneak In
Well, Red Riding Hood is a very pretty movie, with the kind of clothing closet a Renaissance Fair would sacrifice their finest goats and turkey legs for. While it’s not quite on the same below sea level as Twilight, it is an entertaining bundle of ridiculousness that you might find fairly chuckleworthy. Best with cheap beer and the comfort of your own economical and effortless home drinking game.


  1. I liked this better when it was called In The Company of Wolves.

  2. Er, I mean The Company....

  3. I do the SAME EXACT THING every time I talk about (In) The Company of Wolves! EVERY SINGLE TIME! The movie has NO resemblance to In the Company of Men, and yet they are forever linked in my mind...

    Oh and also, I prefer (In) The Company of Wolves to In the Company of Red Riding Hood as well.

  4. No one above a certain age could take this movie seriously, but it sounds like seriously cheesy fun.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  5. True Lazarus, and I will say the audience I saw it with seemed to be giggling quite a lot!

  6. Well, I'm glad the 13 year girls of the world have their porn. Obviously, I'm way outside the demographic for this movie. I'm fine with that. I was, however, hoping it was going to be more interesting/darker/complex. I guess that's a tall order this day in age. And yes, I did think of The Company of Wolves (a favorite of mine) as well. That would pass for PG-13 these days, right? Now if someone would do a weird, dark, sexualized version of Jack and the Beanstalk...that would be cool.

  7. I guess the only other decent Red Riding Hood film that I can think of is Freeway (hearts!) and to a much lesser extent, Deadtime Stories. It's a great story with some potential for an interesting exploration of feminine sexuality, but I think The Company of Wolves covered it about as well as possible. Red Riding Hood has bigger issues to deal with, like making sure everyone's hair looks fabulous.

    Jack and the Beanstalk done right. Hm....

  8. To me these vapid teen movies are the new exploitation flicks, only now that all the moral high ground in the entertainment industry has been flooded there is nothing left to exploit kids for but their money.

  9. Eh, I don't know that it was really ever any better. The Twilight films offend me because I genuinely do feel like they're a terrible depiction of a teenage female character, but this one is just old fashioned wish fulfillment for 8th graders. Until the Red Riding Hood chapstick comes out, I can't be too offended.

  10. Whoa Seyfried's eyes are giving me nightmares..
    clearly the product of alien abduction she is.

  11. It's kind of odd that she's often cast as the sort of every-girl. Chick is actually quite strange looking and I've yet to see a filmmaker take advantage of that. I actually really like Seyfried as an actress, but my goodness, someone just keeps handing her absolutely dreadful material. Or maybe her alien senses just don't detect quality?

  12. Yeah she's not bad as far as alien Hybrid actresses go.. Maybe she'd do well in a remake of Communion or Fire in the Sky?

  13. I haven't seen it yet, but I assume she was totally up for the weird hybrid thingy in Splice. Maybe she fears being typecast (or found out...)

  14. Communion is sooo good! Sorry. It's actually not, but I like to pretend it is.

    I've really never had any interest in this movie, but I did really wish that it was an adult driven adaptation of the story, as opposed to one meant for the kiddies. I love the style like whoa, and as much as I have no interest, that almost does make me interested. Does this comment even make any sense?

  15. I've never seen Communion, but I'll always trust what you pretend.

    The style like whoa is intriguing, so sure it makes sense. And considering the new supposed trend of fairy tale turned dark fantasies (we'll see how long that lasts with Red Riding Hood's box office failure) maybe something catered for you will come along. I hear Kristen Stewart has been cast as Snow White...