Red Riding Hood
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez, Billy Burke
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
While famous for having directed the first Twilight movie, Catherine Hardwicke - who once blazed a trail with the rebellious-teen drama Thirteen - is now also well known for being removed from helming the follow-ups. With Red Riding Hood, however, the American director lays claim to one more feat: of having made the Twilight film she wasn't allowed to do, and proving why her unsupportive producers made a sound decision.
Elements of the traditional folk tale remain - the protagonist wears a red hood, she has a grandmother and there's a wolf - but Red Riding Hood shares more with modern angst-ridden teenage romance than anything else. And specifically with the Twilight films, too.
Set in a Middle Ages village, here is a teenage girl (now named Valerie, and played by Amanda Seyfried, above) torn between two boys, one poised but dull (the blacksmith Henry, played by Max Irons) and the other passionate but temperamental (the woodcutter Peter, Shiloh Fernandez).
And so begins a story in which the female protagonist is split between conforming to norms (by marrying Henry, with whom she is unwillingly engaged) or giving in to her innermost desires (by eloping with Peter, who nearly took her virginity while rolling in the hay).
While the rivals begin by competing for Valerie's affections, they are soon forced to unite to battle a common enemy - a werewolf that killed Valerie's elder sister and looks ready to kill again.
To Hardwicke's credit, Red Riding Hood does boast elements of a suspense thriller, as Valerie struggles to identify who around her is the murderous beast in human form - a paranoia fed by Catholic priest-cum-beast stalker Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who sows the idea of the wolf being 'among us'.
If only Red Riding Hood contained more social metaphors, or played up the real menace a young woman like Valerie will have to confront.
Instead, Hardwicke explicitly delineates the psychosexual symbolism in the story; adding to it the inept staging and silly scenes such as Valerie conversing with a computer-generated werewolf.
The shortcomings might also stem from the fact that the producers are hedging bets on a sequel, and are holding on to some of the better bits for another time. Well, maybe there will not be another time.
Red Riding Hood opens today