Red Riding Hood

Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first “Twilight” movie, has a gift for conveying horny teenage moodiness, in particular as it applies to females.

I’m not sure anyone grows up thinking that will be his or her gift. Nevertheless, there it is, and her take on the red riding hood legend demonstrates she hasn’t lost that touch. The moon glows in a passionate red. The forests are lovely, dark and deep. The film’s best feature is how it tries to restore the sensuality contained in the original Grimm fairy, a feature of the tales that has been lost over centuries of bedtime tellings.

For “Red Riding Hood,” Hardwicke leaves the vampire at home and takes up with the mythology of wolves and women. A pristine girl. A lusty woodsman. A golly-gee good boy. A village terrorized by a big bad wolf. Plenty of room for metaphor. Oh the Twilight of it all.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t fill that room very well, and it misses on several points. The chemistry isn’t there. Dialogue is delivered without conviction. Tragedies barely register emotionally on the characters. The ancient forest has too modern a sensibility, with this being the only medieval village adjacent to a secret spring of lip gloss and hair gel.

There’s the question: does a medieval fairy tale need to feel ancient, with Klaus Kinski dressed in armor stalking through a mysterious forest? Or is it okay for the actors–star Amanda Seyfried first and foremost–to feel like modern California? Should we care if Red Riding Hood uses that modern teenage linguistic space-holder “OK,” which wasn’t invented until the 1830s anyway (Go Martin Van Buren!) Should I just give in to the whole Ladyhawke-ness of it all (including Seyfried’s considerable resemblance to a young Michelle Pfeiffer)?

In theory, this approach could bring a teenage audience closer to the material. Or it could comment on the fictional nature of filmmaking. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem very successful, and it instead alienates you from what’s going on on screen.