Now, children, are you all sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin.
Now, children, are you all sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the lady who directed the first Twilight film (Catherine Hardwicke) decided it would be a good idea to turn the traditional story of Red Riding Hood into a teen horror/fantasy thriller and no one thought to stop her which, children, is what happens when you already have one box-office hit under your belt. ‘Yes, yes!’ everyone probably said, before offering to park her car. At no point did anyone say, ‘But, Catherine! What lousy ideas you have!’ There is a lesson in here somewhere, children, if only I could think what it was.
So the film was made, and this is the film, and we like a turkey, don’t we, children? We like a big fat turkey we can dance around, crowingly, don’t we? Haven’t we had a lot of fun doing that over the years? But this is such a dismal runt of a turkey it would probably have been kinder to strangle it at birth. No, don’t cry, please. It would have been kinder to all involved, as well as kinder to us. It would have, truly.
This has a reasonable cast — Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Amanda Seyfried — but they can’t surmount the material, even give up trying after a while, and I don’t know how much exactly Ms Hardwicke ring-fenced for special effects, but suspect it was somewhere in the region of 55p, as the big, bad wolf looks like an outsized Labradoodle, and I wanted to pet it and tickle its ears. And the script? Banalities heaped on banalities, with lines that include: ‘If you love him, you will let him go,’ although my favourite line? It is when a young lady says to the wolf, which is a speaking wolf, ‘I will wait for you.’ What? Wait for him to stop being a wolf? So there may be a cure for being a wolf one day? Science. Isn’t it amazing?
Now, the film is set in what looks like a Black Forest village in the Middle Ages. This is fair enough, as it’s a very Grimm setting, and so appropriate, even if it is covered in a ton of preposterously artificial snow, and even if the wind does behave most weirdly. Children, do not ask why hair whips wildly while trees remain motionless in the background, as that way madness lies. Similarly, it’s probably best not to ask why so many of the young women go about in short-sleeved dresses in such weather, or why their mothers don’t call out, ‘Come back here and put a bloody coat on, you silly moo. It’s snowing artificially out there!’
The village is not a happy village, as it is plagued by the wolf which, during a ‘blood moon’, whatever that is, takes lives, and has just taken the life of Valerie’s older sister. Valerie (Seyfried) is our heroine, with a complicated love life. Her parents want her to marry Henry (Max Irons), who is wealthy, but she is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a poor woodcutter. Both Henry and Peter look and act as if they’ve drifted in from a boy-band. Peter wears a pronounced quiff, which proves that quiffs go back way further than anyone thought. Valerie is beautiful, but has only the one expression, which combines saucer-eyed surprise with a great deal of gormless gawping. If I were her mother, I would say to her, ‘Close your mouth, dear. It’s not a pretty look. Also, put a bloody coat on.’ But at least she has a fine red cape, given to her by her granny (Christie). This has no narrative relevance, beyond looking good against the snow in Ms Hardwicke’s endless aerial shots. Sometimes the cape is ankle-length and sometimes it is long with a train. It must be some kind of self-adjusting cape. Amazing.
Anyway, the village wants to take revenge against the wolf, so call in the famed wolf-fighter, Solomon (Oldman), who arrives with his warriors in tow, as well as a life-size metal elephant. Yes, children, you heard that right: a life-size metal elephant. Why? No idea. The elephant in the room is the elephant in the room. Solomon reveals that the wolf is a werewolf and, between blood moons, must be a man living among them. This has implications for Valerie’s love life. Could it be Henry? Or Peter? It’s exciting, isn’t it, children? No? Well done. Well spotted. It is extremely dull. And humourless. And silly. And pointless. And if there is a lesson here it is only this: ‘Listen to your mother when she tells you to put a jumper on. It’s for your own good.’ And that’s about it, really. Now, time for bed. Chop chop.