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Red Riding Hood Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Red Riding Hood (2011) movie poster Red Riding Hood

Theatrical Release: March 11, 2011 / Running Time: 100 Minutes (Both Cuts) / Rating: PG-13 (Both Cuts)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke / Writer: David Leslie Johnson / Songs List

Cast: Amanda Seyfried (Valerie), Gary Oldman (Father Solomon), Billy Burke (Cesaire), Shiloh Fernandez (Peter), Max Irons (Henry), Virginia Madsen (Suzette), Lukas Haas (Father Auguste), Julie Christie (Grandmother), Shauna Kain (Roxanne), Michael Hogan (The Reeve), Adrian Holmes (Captain), Cole Heppell (Claude), Christine Willes (Madame Lazar), Michael Shanks (Adrien Lazar), Kacey Rohl (Prudence), Carmen Lavigne (Rose), Don Thompson (Tavern Owner), Matt Ward (Captain's Brother), Megan Charpentier (Young Valerie), DJ Greenburg (Young Peter)

Red Riding Hood available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download 6/14!
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In a world where the first three Twilight movies have grossed over $1.8 billion at the box office, imitators were bound to arise. This year saw a science fiction play for the same audience in February's I Am Number Four.
Three weeks later came Red Riding Hood, a film unmistakably inspired by the hit teen vampire franchise. Whether to establish it as the definitive knock-off or to give the appearance of a blessing, Red arrives with the original Twilight's director Catherine Hardwicke and actor Billy Burke, Bella Swan's father, in tow.

Though its title references one of the best-known fairy tales in history, Red Riding Hood places Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm well behind Stephenie Meyer in terms of story influences. The film centers on Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), a teenaged girl living in the small, snowy, and vaguely European village of Daggerhorn sometime in the indeterminate past. I can't describe the kind of girl that Valerie is because the movie doesn't. It is severely lacking in the establishment and development of characters, tasks invaluable to stoking Twilight fandom.

With basket in hand, Amanda Seyfried stars as Valerie, the young wearer of the titular red riding hood.

We know that Valerie was a young girl ten years ago and that she is presently being courted by two men. One of them, modest woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), has her affections. The other, the wealthy, largely unknown blacksmith's son Henry (Max Irons), has been promised Valerie's hand in marriage. Before Valerie and Peter can run off together, terror strikes Daggerhorn in the form of a giant wolf claiming the life of Valerie's homely, slightly older sister Lucie. The death puts the town on edge and a hunting party looks to kill the beast for violating the understanding behind their monthly animal sacrifices.

Though a wolf is killed, famed witch hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives to warn that celebrations are premature. He is certain that the real deadly enemy is in fact a werewolf and could be any one of the villagers, his or her bloodline a carefully guarded secret. The question becomes not "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?", but "Who is the big bad wolf?" The film drops several hints (perhaps too many) that it could be Valerie's dreadlocked, reclusive grandmother (Julie Christie, who it's nice to see in a sizable role), reason enough to adapt the most famous part of the fairy tale. But could it be someone else, perhaps Peter, Henry, or maybe even Father Solomon himself?

Easiest to rule out is Valerie, who is addressed by the wolf and able to hear and understand him. That's not just a clue, but an omen for Valerie, who soon finds herself tried (unfairly, of course) as a witch, with the possible sentence of wolfen sacrifice.

Peasant woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) seems to have the advantage of the two hunks vying for Valerie. Gary Oldman plays witch hunter Father Solomon, whose reputation precedes him and whose soldiers protect him.

With the exception of casting Virginia Madsen as Amanda Seyfried's mother, very little makes sense in the first hour of Red Riding Hood. The movie seems pitiful in its desire to be like Twilight. Bathing the frame in darkness, it introduces a love triangle composed of three undefined sides and kills off supporting characters even less remarkable than them. Then the often commanding Gary Oldman turns up as a holy man carrying experience and a severed human limb.
Slight interest emerges from putting the town in lockdown and classifying everyone a suspect. It's more fun to guess who the werewolf is than to care which guy is the better fit for Valerie (from what we see, the latter is clearly Peter). The lingering question generates some suspense in the final act and we begin to forget just how ineptly this was all set up. Still, the movie doesn't work on any level beyond "Who bit Lucie?"

Attendance on I Am Number Four wasn't anywhere near the Twilight episodes and despite the more pronounced similarities, Red Riding Hood fared quite a bit worse. The movie grossed $37.7 million domestically and a little more overseas, well under what Warner Bros. Pictures expected from the film. As its budget was a modest $42 million (comparable to the original Twilight's $37 M), the losses aren't too considerable.

Still, you might think they were enough to discourage studios from making movies "like Twilight." And yet, among next year's most reported-on releases are a competing pair of Snow White movies from Relativity Media and its old partner Universal Pictures. Universal's, titled Snow White and the Huntsmen, will star Charlize Theron and Bella Swan herself, Kristen Stewart; Relativity's, thus untitled but scheduled to open three months sooner, has cast Julia Roberts, The Blind Side's Lily Collins, and The Social Network's Armie Hammer. Both sound not only like each other but similar to Red Riding Hood, which ranks among 2011's bigger underperformers in a year that's dealt plenty of them to nearly every studio.

Red Riding Hood hit stores last week in Warner's now standard choice of single-disc Blu-ray, single-disc DVD, and two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. The studio sends out only the lattermost for review, which is kind of nice because it alone presents the movie in an alternate cut on its Blu-ray disc (while also supplying the theatrical cut on all three formats).

Running just 34 seconds longer, the only place where this alternate cut diverges is what the case calls a "provocative alternate ending." It adds a new 74-second lovemaking scene, drops an existing montage, and reorders the closing narration and shots to reflect a different outcome. This revelation doesn't drastically change the movie, but it does make it a little more stupid.

Red Riding Hood Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), standalone Blu-ray ($29.98 SRP),
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Blu-ray delivers a presumably faithful presentation of the film, with its 2.40:1 dark, high contrast visuals. The picture has selective but appealing warmth, as well as the usual sharpness and cleanliness. The disc's 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix also meets today's high expectations with regular atmosphere and potent peaks.

You don't need much time to find the combo pack's DVD lacking in quality both when compared to the Blu-ray it's bundled with and to standard definition DVD at large. It's overly compressed looking (due in part to the disc's digital copies) and has much less clarity and detail than it should. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also a bit weak, at least when sampled after hearing the Blu-ray's roars.

This vintage illustration speaks of the endurance of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, something the movie cares little about. It's technical. Brian Reitzell and Alex Heffes make music in this score featurette.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Red Riding Hood gets a large supply of bonus features. Typical for today's Warner, they are almost all exclusive to Blu-ray.

Aside from the combo-exclusive alternate cut detailed above, the main attraction may be "Secrets Behind the Red Cloak", a picture-in-picture commentary that enhances playback of the theatrical cut.
It features director Catherine Hardwicke and young actors Amanda Seyfried, Max Irons, and Shiloh Fernandez. They appear over about half of the film, and the video of them watching the movie is occasionally supplanted by behind-the-scenes footage and other interview comments. Touching on topics like pickle breath vs. onion breath, Irons' physique, and Seyfried's eyes, it's a relaxed and amiable discussion, the kind that Twihards would eat up on their beloved franchise.

Under Behind the Story, we get seven listings.

"The Reinvention of Red Riding Hood" (5:25) lets the cast and crew demonstrate (as the movie does not) their awareness of the story and its many incarnations and functions over the years, before trying to sell their approach to it. "Red Riding Hood: Red's Men" (3:18) talks up the two love interests, mostly in regard to the actors' looks. Audition footage is complemented by cast/crew admiration, in which it is revealed that Shiloh Fernandez was a finalist for the part of Edward Cullen and that Max Irons is Jeremy Irons' son.

The 11-minute "Red Riding Hood: Making of the Score" lets Catherine Hardwicke and co-composers Alex Heffes and Brian Reitzell discuss the film's music, both showing and telling how it was devised with, among other things, a watermelon and a condom-wrapped microphone. It's more information than most will want.

Even Max Irons, the son of Jeremy Irons, has to audition like everyone else, as his brief Casting Tapes demonstrate. A clean-shaven, horseback Gary Oldman rides into a scene rehearsal in a "No Pictures" shirt.

"Before the Fur... Making of the CGI Wolf" is a short 40-second montage of the furry placeholders and primitive CGI representations of the wolf on set and pre-visual effects.

"Casting Tapes" contains revealing clips from several auditions of Shiloh Fernandez (5:30), two of Max Irons (1:32), and one of the two of them together (0:30). "Rehearsals" (5:52) show us plainclothes run-throughs of three festival sequences. Definitely not standard inclusions, both of these sections are kind of cool to see.

"Red Riding Hood in 73 Seconds" fast-forwards through the movie, playing the few brief snippets of any significance. It's easier to recommend than the movie and I like that the makers have enough of a sense of humor to include it.

In this deleted scene, local autistic boy Claude (Cole Heppell) is upset to find Lucie dead on a Sunday night. What?! Amanda Seyfried takes a spill but remains in good spirits in the gag reel.

Four deleted scenes (4:18), the only thing found on the standard DVD sold separately, show us more of Lucie (Alexandria Maillot), the girl whose film-opening death would mean more with these intact.
There's nothing too valuable in these cuts, but they would have changed the movie more than the alternate ending.

A gag reel (2:37) consists largely of cast falls and snags, usually observed with bleeped profanity. There's also a bit of crew jocularity.

The billed extras conclude with a Twilight standard: music videos. Fever Ray's "The Wolf" (2:20) could very well have been written for Twilight, but to confirm it wasn't, its video contains only clips from Red Riding Hood. Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Reitzell's "Just a Fragment of You" (3:07) is comprised of unique footage depicting a Valerie and Peter taking a romantic hike in the snowy mountains ending with sex. Whether that fits the song, I don't know; the lyrics are basically inaudible droning.

There is an Easter egg. It's an odd 25-second comedy clip of a wolf man auditioning for the role of Hamlet in Catherine Hardwicke's hypothetical next movie.

Finally, there is a BD-Live section, but I had no more success trying to access it than the other ones from the studio. For some reason, Warner's BD-Live offerings just don't cooperate with my players.

As usual for a Warner combo, the DVD in this set is a basic affair holding only the movie and devoting nearly a third of the format's considerably less disc space to digital copies in iTunes and Windows Media formats.

The Blu-ray opens with just a trailer for Something Borrowed, an odd choice no longer widely playing in theaters and months away from hitting home video.

The menu simply reformats a poster image to fill the 16:9 screen while a bellsy score excerpt plays once. The DVD features the same image and score and adds a languages menu (but no scene selection).

Not only does the combo pack offer different cover art than Red Riding Hood's standalone DVD and Blu-rays, but it also adds a slipcover that does more than slip and cover. The front of the sleeve is a lenticular alternating between the sitting Valerie image pictured above and a shot of her two suitors based on your viewing angle. Lenticulars are an imperfect art form, but they catch one's eye and make the packaging less wasteful and repetitive. Inside the standard slim case, the DVD is covered by a list of BD-Live requirements and a digital copy code and directions.

50-year cinema veteran Julie Christie holds the memorable role of the Grandmother, here depicted as a dreadlocked semi-recluse. Awooooo! Werewolf of Daggerhorn. Awoooooo!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Red Riding Hood makes a very clear push for Twilight-type appeal, but it falls short of that and any other fantasy standard you can think of. The film improves as it progresses, but largely because it starts from such a low place. Even if you invest in its one mystery, it's not in any substantial or satisfying way. That's too bad because the source fairy tale could have lent itself to an interesting cinematic interpretation, especially with Seyfried, Oldman, and Christie in the cast. Alas, it's not to be and director Catherine Hardwicke probably now wishes she didn't have to choose between accepting a demanding schedule or leaving the Twilight Saga altogether.

Warner tries to compensate for the film's cold reception and flop performance with an unusually loaded Blu-ray. It's too bad that the target audience of teenaged females probably isn't the most enthusiastic about high definition. DVD customers miss out on the alternate cut, video commentary, music videos, gag reel, auditions, rehearsals, and assorted making-of shorts. That is quite unnecessary, but Warner seems pretty committed to treating DVD as second-class product and stripping away the extras that were standard inclusions over ten years ago. If you are a Blu-ray household, you should enjoy these numerous bonus features (and may have reason for an RRH slumber party). But all the unique and inspired bonus features in the world can't change the fact that this movie is, like, totally lame.

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Which boy would you choose for Valerie? Visit RedRidingHoodLoveTriangle.com to cast your vote!

Related Reviews:
Amanda Seyfried: Dear John Jennifer's Body Chloe | Billy Burke: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Drive Angry Ladder 49
Gary Oldman: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Bram Stoker's Dracula A Christmas Carol (2009)
Julie Christie: Doctor Zhivago Finding Neverland New York, I Love You | Written by David Leslie Johnson: Orphan
New: The Roommate I Am Number Four Unknown Passion Play
Alice in Wonderland (2010) The Brothers Grimm Teen Wolf Tangled The Village

Red Riding Hood Songs List: "Tower of the Void", "Crystal Visions", "Fire Walking", Fever Ray - "The Wolf", Fever Ray - "Keep the Streets Empty for Me", Ken Andrews and Brian Reitzell - "Let's Start an Orchestra", Brian Reitzell - "Ozu Choral" and "Piano Study No. 1" (Symphonic), The Big Pink - "Crystal Visions", Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Reitzell - "Just a Fragment of You"

Red Riding Hood: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download from iTunes Download Amazon MP3s Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed June 24, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Warner Bros. Pictures, Appian Way Productions, and Warner Home Video.
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