Once upon a time, in a mysterious place called Hollywood, spunky filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke directed "Twilight." But before she could make the sequel, the Hollywood wolves huffed and puffed and hired someone else.
Hardwicke's latest film, "Red Riding Hood," is the next best thing. Actually, under Hardwick's direction, it's almost the same thing as "Twilight."
The updated take on the fairy tale follows a brooding young girl, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), who's being wooed by two mysterious hunks. The only thing that could get in the way of true romance is a werewolf.
Toss in a gloomy setting, the same actor - Billy Burke - playing the same dad role he played in "Twilight," plus all the talk of myths and legends, and "Red Riding Hood" is a cheap variation on an all-too-familiar theme.
The film would have been far stronger if the cloaked beauty had been the hero. She looks like a crimefighter with that crimson cape fluttering in the wind. Too bad she doesn't act like one.
Seyfried is reduced to batting her huge eyes and waiting for her heroes to save the day.
This adaptation of the fairy tale is just too literal. The scene where Valerie delivers the line "Grandma, what big eyes you have" is unintentionally comical. The ending is equally cheesy.
Hardwicke has sprinkled in suggestions of incest, bondage and lesbian attraction that are too strong for the film's young target audience.
Visually, "Red Riding Hood" is spectacular. The images are so striking they almost make you forget things like nobody noticing the cold in their snow-covered environs.
Because the story's so familiar, it all feels like putting a bologna sandwich in a velvet bag. Once you get past the wrapping, it's nothing special.
The moral of the story: Don't be surprised when a director who's made her mark in teen-angst films makes a move about teen angst.