Blu-Ray Review: Red Riding Hood

After Red Riding Hood was announced, it seemed all the major studios clambered to put modern twists on classic fairy tales. But it’s Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke that can say she was the first in the recent cinematic trend, and early into production it appeared she had a good thing going. Really though, we have the Vertigo comic series Fables to thank for the recent interest in adapting these classics into more modern tales; Red Riding Hood herself plays a pivotal role in the series. Unfortunately though, Hardwicke’s Red just doesn’t measure up.

Perpetually doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried is the perfect choice for a fairy tale heroine, and she plays Red, or rather, Valerie. She’s in love with her childhood sweetheart Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her family has arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons, Jeremy Irons’ son) instead. She and Peter plan to run away together, but their plans are halted. Their village lives in fear of “The Wolf,” a mysterious creature who murders at random, and this Wolf has just murdered Valerie’s sister.

The townspeople embark on a crazy mob rampage and they succeed in killing a wolf, bringing its head back to the village, and declaring a festival in honor of their freedom from their generations long fear. That is, until Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides into town and tells everyone that they have not killed their Wolf. Their Wolf would have transformed back into a human upon its death.

Gasp! Their Wolf is a werewolf!

Hardwicke’s interpretation is so ridiculous that it barely resembles the fairy tale that it’s based upon, even with all the various adaptations of the story that have been passed down throughout history. This is really more of a Twilight re-hash, except it’s self-contained; no worries of a trilogy here. The film is visually beautiful, but that’s about where the compliments end. The love triangle is forced, the “twist” ending is contrived, and the film completely wastes the talent of its actors.

Aside from the lovely Seyfried and the film’s visuals, there really is nothing very positive to say about Red Riding Hood, only that it’s behind us. Those who haven’t read Bill Willingham’s excellent graphic novel Fables can do so now while they still have time to heal their impression of Red, and before Hollywood starts churning out even more re-tellings of fairy tales.

This Blu-ray release really is perfect for its teenaged target audience. The visual quality is stunning, perfect for watching those hunky leads battle over our heroine. It also comes with both a DVD and digital download copy.

Even though I completely disliked the music in the film – which is an odd mash-up of techno, experimental, and Twilight-esque emo – there is a very interesting featurette on the making of the music called Red Riding Hood: Making the Score (10:59). The Reinvention of Red Riding Hood gives a short history on the different tellings and re-tellings of the story throughout different cultures and time periods (5:25). And for the teens, there’s a bunch of casting call and rehearsal footage. The boys even get their very own featurette, Red Riding Hood: Red’s Men, where all the girls in the cast and crew talk about how dreamy they are (3:18). The film can also be viewed with the option of an extensive commentary featuring Catherine Hardwicke, Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons, and features storyboards and concept art.

My fourteen year old self would probably love Red Riding Hood. I’d probably have bought all the Tiger Beat magazines and taped pictures of the boys on my wall. But for the population of the world not overdosing on female teenage hormones, Red Riding Hood is a poorly told version of a story we’ve heard since we were very young.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents Red Riding Hood. Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke. Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Max Irons, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas. Written by: David Johnson. Running time: 100 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: June 14, 2011. Available at

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