“Red Riding Hood” isn’t the most artfully adapted fairy tale. It might not even be that great of a movie. However, the two men feuding for the heart of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried, “Dear John”) are so damn fine that it makes the entire theatergoing experience worth the effort.

Red Riding Hood

At Rave and Quality 16
Warner Bros.

The word “fine” is not used lightly here. “Fine” barely even begins to describe the chiseled, Adonis-like attributes of Henry (Max Irons, “Dorian Gray”), the wealthy fiancé of the unwilling Valerie. “Fine” also cannot encompass the qualities of Valerie’s true love Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, “Happiness Runs”), whose dark features and scorching eyes basically make audience members (at least the females) turn green with envy of Valerie’s good fortune.

That being said, the storyline is more or less bland. Since it’s an adaptation of the famous children’s tale, “Red Riding Hood” obviously relies heavily on the images of the grandmother and the “big bad wolf” but also adds a tiny village that, for generations, has been plagued by a fearsome werewolf. When a famous werewolf hunter comes in and explains that the wolf is among them, the village goes into a state of panic. The wolf makes a few appearances and says he will leave the village in peace if Valerie comes with him, an idea that most villagers obviously like.

It’s nice that the screenwriters tried to add a love story into the mix. In fact, the film would actually make a very good love story if it wasn’t supposed to be an adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood.” It’s hard to tell if it was a good decision for the film to be both — it seems that “Red” might have been a little more successful if it was written only as an adaptation without a heavy emphasis on love. However, in the long run, the love story makes up for the lame and unoriginal script.

Definitely don’t expect a cut-and-dry film that closely follows the popular version of the tale. While the script might be dumb, there are thrills and action throughout, especially once the villagers learn the wolf is among them. The tension between Valerie, her betrothed and her true love is also palpable. And extremely sexy. However, some of the elements of the well-known story are lost. The point of the children’s story, at least in the Brothers Grimm version, is to show that naïveté leads to harm, but through cunning wit it’s possible to escape danger. In the film version, the writers seem to focus on the other, lesser-known adaptations of the tale, which depict Red as a girl coming to sexual maturity.

So, while Henry gorgeously looks on, Valerie and Peter truly seem like they are unable to keep their hands off of each other, resulting in feelings of empathy (and jealousy) from the audience, which by this time has forgotten that the story is supposed to be about Little Red Riding Hood. The young actors do what they can with the extremely passé script, meaning the film might not be met with whoops and hollers, but is certainly appreciated as a good, albeit generic, experience.

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