"Under the blood moon, a man bitten is a man cursed."
You know the old fairy tale about Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Bears? Or maybe it was Ms. Hood and some other predatory animal, I don't remember, where the beast eats the girl's grandmother over a bowl of porridge, and a woodsman chops everyone to pieces, and other grisly details ensue to delight the young folk. Yeah, well, forget about all that. This one's a retake on "Twilight."
In 2011's "Red Riding Hood" we get a sappy love story involving a young woman, two boyfriends, and a werewolf. The director of "Twilight," Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen," "Lords of Dogtown"), made this one. You get the idea.
Since this is a reimagining of a fairy tale, we get a proper fairy-tale setting in what appears to be a Germanic village "on the edge of a dark forest" in some long-ago time. Good enough. Of course, a wolf is terrorizing the village and has been doing so for generations. The townspeople know it's no ordinary wolf but a werewolf. ("Where wolf? There wolf." --Mel Brooks). But the townsfolk have made peace with the werewolf until now, when it suddenly kills a young woman. The victim in question happens to be the older sister of the main character, Valerie (Valerie Hood? I dunno), played by Amanda Seyfried. Ms. Seyfried is an attractive person in her mid twenties who, I suppose, we are to believe is younger, like late teens. Again, I dunno.
In any case, Valerie is in love with a childhood friend, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a local woodcutter who wants her to run away with him. The trouble is that Valerie's parents have arranged for her to marry another young man about town, Henry (Max Irons), a rather drippy blacksmith. Both guys are heartthrobs, though, which is typical of these kinds of films: Every young person is either beautiful or handsome, as the case may be; we get no common-looking people in fairy-tale movies. Worse, however, is that we see no hint of chemistry or passion or fission between Ms. Seyfried, a fine young actress, and either of her leading men. Without much romance in this romance, it rather takes away much of the fun.
So, that's it: A werewolf is wreaking havoc in the village, while the heroine has two beaus to choose from. What's a poor girl to do?
Fortunately, into their midst arrives Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a professional werewolf hunter, a fellow who acts like a Grand Inquisitor, with an entourage of soldiers and the blessings of the Pope. Apparently, there are enough werewolves abroad in the land for him to make a comfortable living traveling from village to village cleaning up the hoods.
Father Solomon tells the villagers that the werewolf lives among them, and it could be their next-door neighbor. That's helpful, turning friend against friend, and everybody is suspect, including Valerie's two boyfriends, Valerie's parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke), Valerie's grandmother (Julie Christie, as lovely as ever, whose character gives Valerie her red cloak), and various other townspeople.
Here's the thing: Although the "Twilight" movies have had best-selling books behind their success, "Red Riding Hood" has only the children's fairy tale, the physical appeal of the young actors, and some winsome settings going for it. It's not enough to build a film on.
At about fifteen minutes into the movie, the Wife-O-Meter started making wisecracks about the characters, a bad sign. The love triangles (yes, plural) in the story reminded me of the old soap operas my mother used to watch when I was a kid in the Fifties: "As the World Turns," "The Edge of Night," that sort of thing. Despite the best efforts of Seyfried, Oldman, Christie, and Madsen, the film disintegrates into silliness pretty quickly, with just about every event telegraphed a league in advance. I'd hang out in a different hood if I had the chance.
The Warner engineers do a pretty good job transferring the movie to disc in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using an MPEG-4/AVC codec and a dual-layer BD50. Colors are quite lush, the greens of the forest, the browns of the town, and the red of Valerie's cloak showing up nicely. Even though the director favors softening the scene on occasion to give the movie the appearance of a fairy tale, the result is most often appealing. Definition varies slightly but is good most of the time, except in those moments when the director wants to get all misty-eyed on us. Black levels are solid, and shadow detail is fine.
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is about what we have come to expect from a romantic fantasy thriller. It displays good midrange clarity, plenty of mid-bass and midrange punch, and an effective use of the surrounds, especially for environmental noises and occasional action sequences.
Disc one of this two-disc Combo Pack contains two versions of the feature film in high definition: the regular theatrical cut and an alternate cut with an ending not seen in theaters. Neither ending seemed satisfactory to me. In addition, the disc contains a picture-in-picture commentary, "Secrets Behind the Red Cloak," on the theatrical version only, with comments by the stars and director, plus storyboards and artwork and such.
What's more, the disc contains a number of other items, the first being a five-minute featurette, "The Reinvention of Red Riding Hood," on the origins of the fairy tale and its fanciful translation to the screen. That's followed by "Red Riding Hood: Red's Men," three minutes on the movie's two male co-stars; "Red Riding Hood: Making of the Score," eleven minutes with director Hardwicke and composer Brian Reitzell; "Before the Fur: Making of the CG Wolf," forty seconds on the phony-looking CGI; "Casting Tapes," seven minutes on the casting of the two male co-stars; "Rehearsals," six minutes on three scenes; and "Red Riding Hood in 73 seconds," the whole movie in less than a minute and a half, probably the best way to watch it.
Finally, we get four deleted scenes totaling about four minutes; a two-minute gag reel; two music videos: "The Wolf" and "Just a Fragment of You"; a thirty-second joke bit called "Play Sec"; BD-Live access; twelve scene selections; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Disc two, a DVD, contains the feature film in standard definition and a digital copy of the film (the offer expiring June 12, 2012). A cardboard slipcover with an attached holographic picture encloses the flimsy two-disc Eco-case.
The Wife-O-Meter thought teenage girls would love "Red Riding Hood" and gave the film a 6/10 rating for that reason alone. Fair enough. The husband thought that while the movie was attractive to look at, it was boring and predictable to follow, and he gave it a 4/10. Let's compromise on a "5."
"All sorrows are less with bread."