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Movie review: 'Red Riding Hood'

*1/2 (out of four)

Back in the days of witch hunts and girls named Prudence, the town of Daggerhorn’s aggressive name can’t keep it safe from periodic wolf attacks. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) certainly isn’t pleased when Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) claims that the perp is a werewolf living among them, but it does provide distraction from her arranged marriage to a blacksmith (Max Irons) who doesn’t melt her heart like a constantly sneering woodcutter (Shiloh Fernandez).

The buzz: Dangerously forbidden love? Secret beastly identity? Twinkly long shots of mountains and tree tops? Sounds like a job for director Catherine Hardwicke, who hasn’t made a movie since botching the first “Twilight” film in 2008. For good measure, she brings along Billy Burke (Bella’s dad in the “Twilight” series) to co-star as Valerie’s father, and class acts such as Virginia Madsen and Julie Christie to play Valerie’s mom and grandma.

The verdict: Instead of a breathless town wracked with paranoia about its own deadly whodunit, Hardwicke delivers accidentally humorous sideways glances and random suspicions that seem to say, “No, you're the wolf.” Elsewhere a soldier watches the wolf work and insightfully notes, “It’s strong!” Another character actually has a telepathic conversation with the CGI beast. Oldman clearly realizes he’s trapped in a comically un-scary mess and bellows nearly all his lines, providing much-needed bursts of energy while destroying any remaining hint of a serious tone. (His best line, referring to a massively goofy truth-seeking device: “Lock him up ... in the elephant!”) The unfairly maligned 2010 remake of “The Wolfman” had an old-fashioned growl and intense performances. “Red Riding Hood,” on the other hand, accumulates evidence that points to only one possible culprit, but still provides a red herring montage so Valerie can recap the suspects. My, what a small brain she has.

Did you know? A girl with red-orange hair decries Valerie for wearing a red cloak, calling it the devil’s color. Clearly in Daggerhorn they don't believe in pleading the fifth.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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