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Can't Fight the Twilight

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Kimberly French/Warner Bros. Pictures

Movies are often sold to studios on the promise of combining flick A and flick B to produce, well, flick A-plus-B or something. For example, “ ‘Dumb & Deader’ will totally be similar to ‘Dumb & Dumber’-meets-‘Sudden Death’.” It’s the age-old explanation for why Hollywood plagiarizes itself with such fervor.

In formulating “Red Riding Hood,” her ridiculous teenybopper-geared retooling of the fairy tale, director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) clearly couldn’t be bothered to restrict the formula to two movies, or TV shows, or popular trends. Instead, the medieval village-set picture is “Gossip Girl”-meets-“Spring Awakening”-and-a-Renaissance Faire with a dash of “Twilight,” a sprinkling of MTV, a touch of Baz Luhrmann-style anachronisms and all the sweeping helicopter shots you’ll ever need.

Ooh, don’t forget the cautionary allusions to McCarthyism, the endlessly sexy smoldering and a fevered, frenzied evil priest played by Gary Oldman — on top of all that, a murder mystery, too!

It’s a surprise that no heads exploded at Appian Way or Warner Bros. when all this came out, when it became apparent that it really is possible to cram every major recent trend in teenage-skewing entertainment into one movie. How will anyone ever compete?

Unfortunately, my girlfriend pegged the identity of the murderer in three minutes and all the movie offers beyond that remedial guessing game is endless pandering to teens who find impossibly hip the notion of a centuries-old tale set to a Fever Ray soundtrack. Sadly, it’s no longer 1996 (when Mr. Luhrmann did his “Romeo + Juliet”) or 2001 (“A Knight’s Tale,” Queen, anyone?), so the expiration date on that particular conceit has long since passed.

Same goes for the “contemporary” hormonal urges experienced by the virginal Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), who is for obvious reasons submerged within a red cloak that comically appears to extend for miles against the omnipresent vast white snow (get it?). The attire favored by the villagers recalls that seen in the immortal “Wicker Man” remake.

Ironically, it’s all very, very stale. The ranting about witchcraft and Satanism, the constant leering eyeline matches, the evocation of sub-par Agatha Christie intramural suspicions, the perfectly gelled and coiffed dreamboat studs fighting over Valerie, the C.G.I. werewolf and the awkward inclusion of the “What big teeth you have” standard — all of it. Let the countdown to “Breaking Dawn” begin.


Opens on March 11 in the United States and on April 15 in Britain.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke; written by David Leslie Johnson; director of photography, Mandy Walker; edited by Nancy Richardson; music by Brian Reitzell and Alex Heffes; production design by Tom Sanders; costumes by Cindy Evans; produced by Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Leonardo DiCaprio and Julie Yorn; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Amanda Seyfried (Valerie), Megan Charpentier (Young Valerie), Gary Oldman (Solomon), Billy Burke (Cesaire), Shiloh Fernandez (Peter), D J Greenburg (Young Peter), Max Irons (Henry), Virginia Madsen (Suzette), Lukas Haas (Father Auguste) and Julie Christie (Grandmother).


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