Once again folks, we have another installment of Tales from the $5 (or less) DVD Bin! Today we have two movies based on the same story. What’s interesting about the story in question is that despite being one of the most popular fairy tales of all time, does not have a definitive movie version. With a “Cinderella” or “Snow White” you can point at a Disney cartoon or something. But with “Little Red Riding Hood”, which is arguably the most popular fairy tale in the US? Nothing! That’s not to say people haven’t tried to adapt it. In fact, lots of people have. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.
Red Riding Hood (2006)-
This musical kids’ film starts out with two kids, Claire and Matt in a modern suburban home. Matt is your typical annoying video game loving little brother. Claire is possibly the most middle school-y of all middle schoolers, who loves music videos and boys and wants to sneak out and be with her friends. Claire’s plans are interrupted when her grandmother (Lainie Kazan, probably best remembered from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) comes to babysit. She commences telling the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”. The kids, in order to make the story less “lame” begin injecting things into the story. Claire takes the place of Red, Matt becomes her younger brother Rusty and their grandmother becomes the grandmother from the story. Among other changes are Red and her family living in a lighthouse, the grandmother living in an A-frame house overlooking the sea, the wolf being a werewolf who can take the shape of the last person he’s eaten (and played by NSync’s Joey Fatone, of all people), and a strange backstory for the Huntsman (played by our current Man of Steel, Henry Cavill). Honestly, this whole movie feels kind of cheap. It’s the kind of kids’ movie I expect to see playing as filler on a cable kids’ network movie block. There are times when some of the backgrounds seem to be drawn in Microsoft Paint. Though it’s played for laughs, it often seems more awkward than funny. On top of that, the plot seems to meander once it gets started. The kids in the movie even call it their grandmother’s “endless short story”. The songs are memorable at the least. There’s a song based on the whole “What big eyes you have” conversation, Joey Fatone doing a cover of Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs “Hey Little Red Riding Hood” and this oddly poppy little number.
Red Riding Hood (2011)-
This movie may be a little more familiar to some people because it’s more recent and had a wide theatrical release. That didn’t stop me from being able to buy it for $3 at a local supermarket, though. The 2011 Red Riding Hood is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” done as a teen paranormal romance. The movie stars Amanda Seyfried as Catherine, the “Red Riding Hood” of the film. From what I saw, the actress only seems to be able to convey the emotion of “perplexed” through the entire film. Though it does have nods to the story, the plot of this film more closely resembles the premise of the card game One Night Ultimate Werewolf. There’s a werewolf terrorizing a rural village every full moon. The werewolf could be anyone and everyone is under suspicion. Things are made tenser by a werewolf hunter coming to town and casting accusations. For Catherine herself, life is complicated by the reveal of some family secrets and finding that she has some sort of connection to the werewolf. There are some minor issues with the movie, like how the music seems really out of place. However, the biggest issue with this movie is how completely generic it is. It is pretty much standard YA romance with a mystery involving a werewolf laid on top of it. Catherine even has the two standard pretty boy love interests, neither of which seem to have much of any personality. Really, this movie doesn’t bring anything the story that wasn’t “ho hum”.
So, which movie was better? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The teen film from 2011 was boring but never campy or cheesy. Though, maybe it did take itself a bit too seriously. The kids’ film from 2006 could keep your attention even when the story seemed to go nowhere but was pure camp from beginning to end. Both movies seem to have this odd love for showing Red's cape billowing in the wind behind her despite the cape not being all that long in still shots. I’d feel hard pressed to call either of these movies good.
Really, the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” is so simple and so ingrained in people’s minds that it seems strange to try and expand on it and change it in order to make it a movie. I mean, it’s perfectly within anyone’s rights to expand on and change a folk tale. That doesn’t necessarily mean the changes will bring anything to the story, though. There’s something so simple and almost universal about the tale as it is usually told these days (despite being an odd mish-mash of Grimm and Perrault). It’s a European folk tale but one that has a huge following in the US. And you’ll notice that unlike a lot of fairy tales, it could easily take place in the US if you wanted it to be set there. There are no princes or castles or other hints of the feudal system. There’s just a little girl, a grandmother, a wolf and a forest. The story can be played as light and kid-friendly or dark and full of subtext but it never loses that simplicity. Maybe that’s why this story has such power despite not having a definitive cinematic version. Perhaps the simplicity speaks for itself.
It seems today that my quest to find the hidden gem of fairy tale movies in the $5 bins has not been fulfilled yet. So, my search continues.