Red Riding Hood – Review

Red Riding Hood (2011) 

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Starring Amanda SeyfriedGary OldmanBilly BurkeMax IronsLukas Haas

One thought kept running through my mind while watching this film: “I’m so not the target audience.. I’m so not the target audience… I’m so not the target audience!!!”. Indeed research showed that 64 percent of Red Riding Hood’s audience was female, and 56 percent was under 25 years old.

That’s all right, nothing wrong with it. In fact I decided to accept that and actually embrace it.

I was going to stop being cynical and I tried my best to sit back and enjoy the ride as much as I possibly could, even if I rarely felt so out-of-place during a movie…

I tried to concentrate of the good things: the set design and the cinematography, for example, were both beautiful. Gary Oldman looked like he was having fun and, very aware of the silliness of the whole thing, seemed to have decided to match it all with unbelievably silly accent too. The rest of the cast too was competent enough:  Julie Christie as the sinister, fur-twirling grandmother, an under-used Virginia Madsen as the slightly slutty Mother and of course Amanda Seyfried’s fragile near-ethereal beauty in the central role around which all the other many characters revolve.

I was almost ready to go with preposterousness of it. I could see what they were trying to do, as the incredibly good-looking young actors kept taking their shirts off and as the soundtracks kept switching from bland atmospherics, eery strings and occasional tribal drums to loud heavy (random) songs clearly aimed at teenagers (though I did wonder more than once, should a movie for teenagers have so many random songs where actually a score would have been 100 times better suited?).

I also decided to ignore the blatant attempts to ape the previous Twilight Movies, in the way the story was centered around a love triangle (Here too the girl at the centre of the story has to decide which of the two hot-looking-boys to go for), in its semi-horror themes (were-wolves galore this time here as opposed to vampires) and even in the use of the same director (Catherine Hardwicke) from the first Twilight and the same actor (Billy Burke) playing the same role of the father of our heroine (there was an interesting video entry on this on Mark’s Kermode Uncut Blog).

I even tried not to get distracted by the surge of laughter in the theatre at around 40 minutes into the film when our red-hooded-heroine who is cornered by the big wolf discovers he can speak and reacts to it with one of the worse delivered line in the film: “You can talk?!”. I was even going to excuse that too, and the many subsequent terrible lines of dialogue in the screen. “OK fine, the dialogue might not be too good, but…. But… But… And you know what!?! After a while I could not find any more “but”.

Are teenage girls really going to love this? Is the young generation really so stupid to fall for this?

I am happy to report that the answer is “NO”, if the box office figures are anything to go for the film didn’t really go too well. In fact, it underperformed right from its release date in the US (and estimated $14.1 million on 3,500 screens at 3,030 locations), showing that even the core-audience smelled cheat. And let’s not even mention the critics who have mostly panned this as a Twilight-light (and I thought Twilight was the lightest a film could be…).

The real problem with Red Riding Hood seemed to be that there is a clear discrepancy between what it is trying to be artistically (A modern slightly stylized execution of a fairy tale), the genre it is trying to follow (a horror for kids) and the type of audience for whom the marketing campaign decided it had to morph into.

In the end it just doesn’t work: it’s too silly for genre lovers, or those who were looking for something more refined like “in the company of the wolves” for example, and it’s too close to Twilight (almost like a copy of it); so much so that it actually even managed to annoy what was meant to be the core-audience. Also, it must be said, a lot of those Twilight lovers came from the original books, here it all just relies on the similarities with another saga.

It’s just a misjudged attempt. It misfires all the potential good things about it. It relied too much on the hopes to cash in on the success of the Twilight Movies and didn’t have enough conviction on its actual qualities, on the craftsmen behind it and on what this could have been if it had done with more maturity.

It will be interesting to see what the studios will learn from this lesson. They are they going to have to figure out how a better way to market this genre successfully as there are two versions of Snow White on the horizon, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is currently in production.


Check out my review of the much better film: Snow White and the Huntsman

The Adjustment Bureau – Review

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Directed by George Nolfi. Starring Matt DamonEmily BluntNatalie CarterJohn SlatteryTerence Stamp

Loosely adapted from a short story by Philip K Dick from 1954 (The adjustment team), the Adjustment Bureau tries to take the usual Dick’s elements about conspiracy and paranoia and mixes them up into what’s essentially a love story.

If you really wanted to take this film apart you’d probably have quite an easy time: of course, the original conceit is ludicrous, the plot holes are everywhere and when you stop and think about it for more than 5 minutes you might even be able to draw a line connecting all the dots much before the actual ending is revealed. But all that doesn’t take away from the fact that if you did manage to suspend your disbelief, you might actually enjoy the ride.

There are a few interesting ideas here and there: the argument about pre-destiny and free will, or the fact that happiness of spirit can make a fighting relax too much (successful politicians are people who are not very lucky in love and only a broken heart can give them the anger for a real political victory). None of them is highly original to be honest, or even dealt with in any depth, but it’s all added to the mix and it’s there for whoever care enough to pay attention to the details.

The film is more concerned with the actual romance between the two leads and they both play their parts in the best possible way. Matt Damon once again demonstrates his versatility (My God, how many films has he done recently!?!) and the chemistry with his co-star Emily Blunt is quite strong despite the absurdity of the plot itself (and that awkward first scene of them together in the bathroom, which is particularly contrived and seemed a bit out of place, compared to the rest of the film).

It’s interesting to notice that the film was meant to come out about 6 months ago but rumors of disappointing test screenings, re-shoots and some of the similarities people felt the film had with Inception, delayed the release of the film. In fact I believe it had 3 different release dates.

While it might not have the scope or ambition of Inception (it’s interesting that even the UK critic Mark Kermode calling it “Inception-Light”), at the same time the film is intriguing, entertaining and even romantic enough to sustain its length (mercifully only 106 minutes), though I must say there are as many plot holes as there are people working for the “adjustment bureau itself it seems… And moreover, I thought that the ending did come a bit too abruptly and felt rushed (I do wonder if that’s the one that was planned).

It is set in today’s world and yet it has a slightly retro feel, from the way it’s filmed to the way it’s paced and acted and even the way it looks (the way the “Adjustment Bureau People” are dressed, and even the lack of in-your-face-special-effects). It almost feels like one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone from the 60s. That feeling is then enhanced even more by the presence of people like John Slattery, that we are so used to see in Mad Man (that one too set in the 60s).

I saw this film about a week ago and I am already starting to forget it, so I suppose it’s not going to be one of those cult classic that will live forever, but while I was with it I had enough fun and I find it quite enjoyable.


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