Mar

9

 Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Once you know that Hardwicke directed the two Vampire movies ("Twilight" and "Thirteen"), you don't need a Fantasy Thriller on $5 a Day guidebook.

In a story that is transposed into a 'dark' re-purposing of the traditionally sanitized legend, stabbing at the metaphysical while failing miserably at the ordinary, you don't really need much more than to realize all the girls in this medieval forest village are lovely, no one has carbuncles or bad skin, all the young men are unshaven in the 2-day stubble style recently popular in South Beach, and all are strong jawed and mighty of [puny] intellect and [leather-laced] broad chest. And messing around by various adults before the story begins does not pay off in dividends down the road.

The language is annoyingly anachronistic (the young men set to jubilate in the town square suggest they 'have some fun' in a locution people would not even dream up for centuries), the casting is wrong (Riding Hood herself is Amanda Seyfried, playing Valerie, whose eyes are enormous orbs of exophthalmic goiter size, whose lips are cherry red but not a-tremble, and who is too-modern-wrong for the part). The 'legendary' werewolf who has been prowling under the 'blood moon' every 13 years for sacrificial peccary or virgins since the dawn of these teen-agers' first eyelash flicker is ferocious, but–like the shark for most of "Jaws," largely unseen for the curettage of blood and carnage inflicted on auxiliary characters–is really over-the-top in terms of audiences who have seen far more threatening unseen CGI creatures in "Alien," "Planet 9," "The Fly," anything with Pauly Shore, Vin Diesel or your African E-bola virus stories.

The picturesque village of Daggerhorn features a malevolent Gary Oldman, too grandiose or Shakespearian for the over-zealous Father Solomon/nasty wolf-avenger he plays; a handsome scion of the town's sparse richies, smithy Henry, played by Max Irons (though Valerie is totally turned off to this hunk of adaptive protoplasm, most of the audience at the screening swooned at sight of him); and Virginia Madsen, as Valerie's incandescent mother, Suzette, prettier than her daughter, actually; and the surprising Julie Christie, who offers the only amusing and mischievous depiction of a character in the film. In dreadlocks and bohemian attire, she plays Grandma, (you know the one: "What big eyes you have, Grandma! What big teeth!" "The better to eat you with, my dear."), giving the viewers the Willies every time Seyfried's Valerie comes to visit and calls her non-conformist gram, Gramma. Does not parse.

Val wants only the lantern-jawed, poor woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), though she will be not only forever dirt-poor if she runs away with this preternatural metrosexual, but her name will probably be, like as not, Valerie Axman (no? insertion humor?).

It is unlikely that anyone would enjoy this fabricated trope on a fairy tale that used to have some metaphorical heft before it was purloined for leathers and firebrands except a very dim pre-teen smitten by the Vampire franchise. The press notes say "The implicit message of the film is 'Don't talk to strangers.' " But what if that stranger/danger turns out to be someone one loves? The big bad wolf represents the molten fear of not knowing whom you're really dealing with.

Not for the kids. Sadly, not really for the adults, either.


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