Red Riding Hood 

Note that the title lacks the character attribute of "little"; there's nothing small about this adaptation. (My, what big visuals you have!) It's the kind of flawed flick I can recommend on style alone.

Amanda Seyfried ("Letters to Juliet") dons the scarlet winter cloak as Valerie, who lives in a small village where she's been promised in marriage to one man, yet is in love with another. But affairs of the heart come second to the real problem of a big, bad wolf terrorizing the area and slaying villagers, Valerie's sister included. (Or does it? She seems to get over the tragedy PDQ.)

Rolling into town to help is this film's Van Helsing, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"), he of the silver-tinged fingernails, all the better to fight werewolves with. When the residents believe they've slain the beast, Solomon informs them that when a true werewolf dies, it returns to its human form; ergo, it's still among them. In so many words, he says that head they're so proudly toting around on a stick is that of an ordinary animal, not a monster.

"Red Riding Hood" has its share of missteps — a talking CGI wolf, a clap-off intended to incite jealousy, a lovemaking session in the snow — but the atmosphere rich enough in Gothic elements — thorn-ridden trees, snow-capped roofs, busy smokestacks — to keep the tale interesting, with just enough to blood to please those hoping for horror to be infused, but not enough to turn off those who shy away from that genre.

Director Catherine Hardwicke has done a fabulous job in bringing a storybook look to the big screen without appearing silly or chintzy (Tim Burton also did the same in the similarly spooky-looking "Sleepy Hollow").

And director Catherine Hardwicke has done a disservice by allowing the story to be injected needlessly with a dose of "Twilight"-style romance — make that faux-mance, rather. Smirking Shiloh Fernandez ("Deadgirl") appears to have been cast as one-third of Valerie's love triangle simply because of his resemblance to two-thirds of the one on which "Twilight" was built. It's simply not needed when so many good actors in the cast — Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie and Lukas Haas in particular — fill underwritten roles.

All in all, we're given a movie that neither really succeeds, nor really sucks. I'm a few hairs on the side that admires it, if only because the rather impressive technical aspects pushed me there.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray offers two cuts, the differences in which lay in the length of the sex scene and the final shot. Viewers also will find a wealth of featurettes, a gag reel (comprised largely of people falling down), casting tapes for the beefcake, rehearsal footage, four deleted scenes and a pair of music videos (great tunes, but all the visuals come from the film). —Rod Lott

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Rod Lott

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