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Red Riding Hood 

Lesson of Red Riding Hood: Avoid making a movie if you don’t know what the hell your point is.

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Like all the traditional folk “fairy tales” collected by the Brothers Grimm, “Little Red Riding Hood” is fundamentally about wrapping a pragmatic lesson in fanciful narrative. And there is indeed a pragmatic lesson in director Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood: Avoid making a movie if you don’t know what the hell your point is.

Is it just an attempt to piggyback on the supernaturally tinged Gothic romance success of the Twilight films launched by Hardwicke? This one does feature a romantic triangle, with medieval villager Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) torn between her childhood sweetheart, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), and Henry (Max Irons), the more financially successful boy with whom a marriage has been arranged. But Henry is too wimpy of a nice guy to ever imagine there’d be a Team Peter vs. Team Henry debate.

Is it to create a horror whodunit? Early on, it’s established that the werewolf who has been terrorizing the town for generations is actually one of the townsfolk, leading to a series of feints as to the possible villain. Henry? Peter? Valerie’s loner grandmother (Julie Christie)? Her dad (Twilight’s Billy Burke)? The town’s nervous priest (Lukas Haas)? If you guess the answer ridiculously early on, it becomes obvious that there’s little left but a wait through the slayings and bodice-ripping for the revelation.

Is it just to give Gary Oldman, as the wolf-slaying cleric brought in to help kill the beast, a good scenery-chewing role? There’s not even enough of that going on to make Red Riding Hood enjoyably cheesy, though you do have to appreciate the weirdness of making a torture device out of a large metal elephant.

So if you’ve got dull romance, uninvolving mystery, uninspired performances and the PG-13 gore of a tepid thriller, what’s left? Waiting for how the script shoehorns the line “Grandma, what big eyes you have” into the story, and then realizing what a big waste of time these filmmakers have made.

RED RIDING HOOD

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Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez
Rated PG-13

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