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Friday, June 03, 2011

'Red Riding Hood'

'Twilight'-esque tween-girl romance with a splatter of red

There is no greater indication of success than spawning a rash of imitators; just witness the explosion of shoddily thrown-together 3-D films in the aftermath of "Avatar," or the exponential increase of pretty-boy vampires after "Twilight" took off ("Vampire Diaries," anyone?).

Red Riding Hood (Japan title: Akazukin) Rating: (2 out of 5)
★ ★
Red Riding Hood (Japan title: Akazukin)
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to be gobbled up in "Red Riding Hood." © 2011 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Running time: 100 minutes
Language: English
Opens June 10, 2011
[See Japan Times movie listing]

This week's post-"Twilight" contender, "Red Riding Hood" ("Akazukin" in Japan), has a better pedigree than most: It's directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who made the first "Twilight" film before being unceremoniously dumped from the series (despite having helmed the biggest opening film ever by a female director), and it stars Shiloh Fernandez, who had a shot at the male lead in "Twilight" before Robert Pattinson proved to have, uh, "better chemistry" with costar Kristin Stewart.

Although based on the classic fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, "Red Riding Hood" does share a lot of ingredients with "Twilight": There's a shape-shifting werewolf, a pale teenage heroine (Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!" and "Chloe") torn between two hunks sworn to protect her (Fernandez and Max Irons), and a chaste sexuality that showcases flirty longing over consummation. Hardwicke's film largely ignores the dark sexual undertones of the original tale, which were so prominent in Neil Jordan's far more florid (and creepy) silver-screen version in 1984, "The Company of Wolves."

This "Red Riding Hood" is, like "Twilight", precision-tooled to tweak all the pleasure receptors of its tween-girl demographic. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that: The people who incessantly dump on films such as "Twilight" in their online ravings are usually the same people who think "Thor" is this generation's "Citizen Kane."

Yet as someone who falls way outside the tween-girl target market, I can't honestly say I enjoyed the film; the point where the big bad wolf starts — OMG! — talking to the heroine pushed it over the edge into laugh-out-loud silly. I did, however, find it enjoyable in an anthropological sort of way. Hardwicke, as she proved with "Twilight" and her excellent debut, "13," certainly has her finger on the pulse of the romantic fantasies of tween-girls today. Since most male readers probably wouldn't be caught dead at this movie, allow me to fill the guys in on what this movie tells you about its demographic and its views of romance ...

1.) Hair-care products. It may be the middle ages, but that's no excuse not to spend some time in front of the mirror. (Unless you're secretly a vampire.) After a hard day's work chopping down trees or smiting that anvil, your honey will still expect her swain to have that feathered hair that looks like the wind has been blowing in three directions at once. Don't disappoint, or you'll just be another frizzy-ponytailed extra sulking in the back of the tavern.

2.) Jealousy works. No, really! Next time your girl is being difficult, go to the village dance and get all funky with the local harlot. (Easy to spot: Her name will be Rose if not Cherry.) Your flame will clearly see the error of her ways and engage in some sultry lipstick-lesbian provocation to win you back. (Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article represent those of the author and The Japan Times claims no responsibility for any slapped faces, slashed mattresses or expensive phone bills that result from acting on them.)

3.) Girls don't know what they want. Is it the hunky, high-income professional who gives her expensive jewelry? Or is it the bad-boy, sweat-pungent, blue-collar hottie who makes her "want to break the rules"? Answer: both. What the film does teach you is this: Don't be all understanding and down with the fact that it's, like, her choice, and the other guy is my bro and all that. Be ruthless, or before you can say "Woodsman, woodsman," the dude with the better hair-care products will have snaked you.

4.) Don't smile. Ever. Just focus really intently on her, like you're trying to make her bodice unlace by means of your telepathic powers. Smiling is for the little dim-witted brother who gets roasted alive by Gary Oldman. Real men brood. Or at least look fashion-ad vapid, like Max Irons, who has a name almost as cool as Max Power.

5.) Finally, don't try to argue with her when she's holding the knife. Seriously. Back off into the forest, and wait until she's chilling with some porridge at her grandmother's house before texting her, "we cool?"

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