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Amanda escapes the 'Hood'

Published March 17. 2011 05:13PM

The career of Allentown native Amanda Seyfried should survive "Red Riding Hood" relatively unscathed.

You may not.

It's not often a movie is so bad you feel compelled to bolt half-way through.

The couple in front of me at the screening of "Red Riding Hood" did just that.

Alas, your dedicated, steadfast, professional movie reviewer stayed to the very end of "Red Riding Hood." For the big reveal, see "Credit Readers Anonymous" below.

Director Catherine Hardwicke takes a few pages from the screenplay of "Twilight" (2008), which she also directed, and turns the Big Bad Wolf of the Brothers Grimm classic fairy tale in a werewolf.

That's not an altogether bad twist and allows for multiple guesses as to who the Big Bad Werewolf really is in "Red Riding Hood."

Is it either of Valerie's two suitors: darkly handsome, punk-coiffed Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) or athletic, dirty blond tousled Henry (Max Irons)?

Is it reserved and devout Father August (Lukas Haas)?

Is it the flamboyant vampire killer, Father Solomon (Gary Oldham, looking like he's in outtakes from the "Harry Potter" series) in purple raiment and arriving entourage-style in a carriage and towing what looks like Lucy The Elephant, from Margate City, N.J.?

Or is it, as in the original tale, her grandmother (Julie Christie, having a good scenery-chewing time with the role)?

We know it's not Amanda Seyfried, in the title role of Valerie although the "what big eyes you have" certainly applies to her. With her doe-like eyes peaking around tree trunks, she could be a creature of the forest.

Seyfried ("Letters to Juliet," "Dear John," "Mama Mia!") does the voiceover in breathy tones of eager anticipation. Her face is such a compelling screen presence she almost rescues the role.

She's no damsel in distress. Seyfried (Allen High School, Class of 2003) projects a strong countenance. Alas, she's given little to do in dialogue or action. Seyfried is ill-used by Hardwicke.

In supporting roles are Virginia Madsen as Valerie's mother and Billy Burke as her father.

Hardwicke ("The Nativity Story," "Thirteen," "The Lords of Dogtown") directs ploddingly. Her background as production designer on some 19 movies reveals more concentration on visuals than character and story.

There are sweeping landscape shots, CGI depictions of the fictional medieval village of Daggerhorn targeted by the werewolf, backlit, romantic glow, sun-saturated scenes festooned with flowers, golden fall leaves, cones of hay with blue flowers (I'm not making this up.) and more snow than the winter of 2010 - '11.

Add to this fearful heavy breathing, frozen consternation and perplexed looks by her main characters in unison.

The predictable pacing is punctuated by the swoosh, auditory and visual, of the presumptive werewolf, which, when the somewhat wet, frazzled and beleaguered-looking creature finally appears (think of Wile E. Coyote's even nastier cousin) has little shock value and scare factor which is, after all, the point with creature features, which "Red Riding Hood" most certainly wants to be.

The screenplay by David Johnson ("Orphan") lacks intellectual rigor and moral spine crucial to a tale of good versus evil.

The soundtrack reliably overlays choral voices, foreboding symphonic orchestration and even electronica to juice up lackluster scenes.

We won't spoil the fun should you choose to see "Red Riding Hood." Suffice it to say that the conclusion smells like a sequel.

"Red Riding Hood," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality; Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery; Run time: 1 hr., 40 min. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Stay to the very, very, very end of the "Red Riding Hood" credits for another full frontal attack by the werewolf.

Box Office, March 4: "Battle: Los Angeles" won the weekend box office war, opening at No. 1 with an impressive $36 million. "Rango" dropped to No. 2, $23.1 million, $68.6 million. "Red Riding Hood" opened at No. 3, with a disappointing $14.1 million.

4. "The Adjustment Bureau," $11.4 million, $38.4 million, two weeks; 5. "Mars Needs Moms," $6.8 million, opening; 6. "Hall Pass," $5.1 million, $34.9 million, three weeks; 7. "Beastly," $5 million, $16.9 million, two weeks; 8. "Just Go With It," $4 million, $93.9 million, five weeks; 9. "The King's Speech," $3.6 million, $129 million, 16 weeks; 10. "Gnomeo & Juliet," $3.5 million, $89 million, four weeks

Unreel, March 18:

"Limitless," MPAA Rated PG-13: An advertising firm copywriter (Bradley Cooper) discovers a top secret drug. Neil Burger ("The Illusionist") directs the thriller that also stars Robert De Niro, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish.

"Paul," MPAA Rated R: Two British comic-book fans (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) traveling in their recreational vehicle across the United States encounter an alien near the legendary Area 51. Greg Mottola ("Superbad," "Adventureland") directs the comedy.

"The Lincoln Lawyer," MPAA Rated R: Matthew McConaughey is a defense attorney who operates out of his used Lincoln Town Car. The drama also stars Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and John Leguizamo.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

One Popcorn Box out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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