Movie review: 'Red Riding Hood' only looks good

Dana Barbuto

A big bad wolf is on a killing spree in the medieval village of Daggerhorn. The beast is unstoppable, ravishing one person after the next. Adults, children, men or women, he shows no mercy. It’s as if he has “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA” because he is certainly “winning” this battle.

No, the monster in question isn’t Charlie Sheen, but if he were, then perhaps “Red Riding Hood” might not be as cringe-inducing.

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the film is “Twilight”-esque at its core, which, I suppose, is good for fans of that teen vampire franchise.

The similarities are not surprising, either, since director Catherine Hardwicke helmed the first “Twilight” flick. Everything about the tone and texture of “Red Riding Hood” apes “Twilight.” The setting is as gray and gloomy, just like Forks, Wash. The heroine, Valerie, played by what-big-eyes-you-have Amanda Seyfried, is wooed by two rival plastic actors, who may or may not be werewolves. Seyfried (“Dear John”) pouts a lot and breathes heavily. Her father is Billy Burke – yep, Bella’s dad. Here, though, he’s got a role with a bit more bite.

If that’s not enough, the script by David Johnson (“Orphan”) serves up heaping helpings of teen angst, sexual tension, ridiculous romance, infidelity and rote lines like “If you love her, you’ll let her go.”

Somewhere amid the love triangle between Valerie, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, the guy she loves) and Henry (Max Irons, the guy she’s betrothed to) resides a horror movie. And not a very scary one. I never once leapt from my seat; and why would I when you can see every scare coming three scenes ahead.

The gist of the narrative is this: a Blood Moon is happening. That’s when the werewolf acts up, significantly. The villagers – who walk on hot coals for kicks at parties – call upon the great hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), to help them slay the beast. After his grand entrance with horses, buggies, crossbows and a hollowed-out elephant carcass housing a torture chamber, it’s learned that the werewolf is really a human and living among them. Paranoia ensues and a witch, err, wolf hunt unfolds. Characters are knocked off left, right and sideways. The wolf’s identity is of little surprise. And by the time that finally happens, you’ll probably have long since ceased caring. Johnson’s script ties up every plot string, so you’re not left wondering such things as did a young Valerie ever kill the white bunny she caught in the opening flashback. Yup, the film takes itself that seriously and assumes you really do want to know.

Johnson also jams in the iconic references from the original fairy tale, though the “Grandma, what big eyes you have” scene is fleeting fun in the hands of Julie Christie, playing the creepy old gal.

All isn’t totally lost, though. Two things stand out. One being the stark beauty of the red cloak set against Seyfried’s gorgeous blue eyes and the snowy backdrop. That was pretty to look at. The other plus is Lukas Haas, this film’s version of Anna Kendrick, the scene-stealing teen from “Twilight.” Haas (“Inception”), who is lifelong pals with Leonardo DeCaprio, a producer here, is pretty solid in “Red Riding Hood,” making the most of his Father Auguste, the jittery village priest. Everyone else, including Virginia Madsen as Valerie’s mother, are immediately forgettable.

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RED RIDING HOOD (PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.) Cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. 1 star out of 4.