IndieWIRE's Caryn James says that Red Riding Hood makes Twilight look good. You've been warned. Below, a round-up of reviews on Catherine Hardwicke's reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale, which has been told in various forms since the 14th century. This latest retelling didn't get the Disney PG treatment, nor does it have a male-friendly gothic-horror edge. It sits somewhere in-between: the femme teen zone. Check back Saturday for TOH's SXSW interview with Hardwicke. In the meantime, see what the critics are saying:
"There are so many jarring echoes here, you have to wonder if Hardwicke was deliberately making a Twilight substitute…What a waste of possibilities because, like so many fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood is filled with deadly threats and adult undertones. Whether those themes are interpreted literally as fear of being killed by a wolf, or metaphorically as innocence confronting the turmoil of sexual passion, the audience should feel something. At the very least this version should create an aura of intense fear and paranoia; anyone in the village might be a wolf in disguise. We should share the hormonal, romantic rush of Valerie’s emotions in her love triangle. The film shouldn’t hit us like a snoozy lullaby…Imagine how bad a film has to be to make Twilight look so good."
Todd McCarthy, THR:
"A film of grimm banality, Red Riding Hood puts a bloodthirsty Twilight spin on a fairy tale already possessed of an unusually macabre climax. As it thuds along from one wolf attack to the next, Catherine Hardwicke's first film since taking leave of Bella and her toothy friends adamantly refuses to provide any wit, humor or fun, concerning itself mostly with the heroine's taxing dilemma of picking between the rural village's two best looking boys. Still, with Warner Bros. delivering a massive campaign aimed at a ready-and-drooling target audience, some big opening numbers lie in wait. Red Riding Hood is in the vanguard of what appears to be an onslaught of live-action fairy tale-derived studio features over the next year or so. What triggered this trend remains unclear, but one can only hope that the level of cleverness and invention improves, as things hardly get off to an inspired start here…Unfortunately, the context here is hokier than in any of the director's previous films and, as she's not a stylist or genre specialist, she has little to bring to this sort of material other than a natural empathy for the lead character. The dialogue exchanges possess no spark, the action is indifferently covered by random camera moves and cuts and the only jolts are provoked by cheap shock-cuts to the growling or roaring wolf."
Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times:
"What big eyes you have, Amanda Seyfried! That's essentially what we're left with by the end of Catherine Hardwicke's odd fairy tale…[Hardwicke's] the obvious choice to direct this movie, with its looming metaphors of teen sexuality and danger in the woods. But she's stuck with a plodding screenplay by David Leslie Johnson ("Orphan") and a movie that has little reason to exist, other than as a showcase for Seyfried's uncannily beautiful face, framed prettily in red, and as the latest in a line of fairy tales on the big screen…the romance between Valerie and Peter feels generic, despite all that soft hay; and the mystery of whom the wolf might be droops too soon. By its end, Red Riding Hood feels like a time-travelling Twilight prequel — one that wasn't needed."
Justin Strout, Orlando Weekly:
"While Red Riding Hood never pretends to be anything other than red meat for its ravenous teen base, it's more sturdily constructed than it was required to be, and thus, more engrossing…Of course, most of the credit for its success must go to Seyfried, whose enormous and lovely eyes are so hypnotic that they're able to support an entire motif of their own. With her porcelain skin and seasoned delivery, you couldn't ask for a more captivating Red. And that may be a problem for Hollywood and its Grimm plans: Vanessa Hudgens, who anchors the Beauty and the Beast remake, Beastly, and Twilight's Kristen Stewart, who is rumored to be signing on as Snow White, can't hold a candle to Seyfried."
Justin Chang, Variety:
"By the time the title character gets pawed by an eager young lad, growling, 'I could eat you up,' it's clear that this isn't your grandmother's Red Riding Hood. More like your teenage daughter's, as director Catherine Hardwicke stays firmly in Twilight territory with another moony-eyed romantic triangle beset by hellish supernatural complications. Intermittently enjoyable hokum at best, this mostly risible exercise in fairy-tale revisionism could stoke enough young-femme curiosity to post solid if not Twilight-threatening numbers, its tepid dramatics, clumsy production values and cupboardful of werewolf cliches be damned."
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Central:
"Once upon a time there was a movie director who made a couple of well-received independent films and finally landed a blockbuster. Our heroine is Catherine Hardwicke, whose credits included Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown before she kicked off the Twilight franchise, directing the first film in the series. She was gone by the second one, but not before creating a signature look and, um, feel for the films. If, by chance, you've missed Twilight and its sequels, don't worry. Shiny, moody, moon-faced and dumb, Red Riding Hood pretty much replicates the experience entirely…This is not a good thing."