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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Red Riding Hood

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Amanda Seyfried stars in "Red Riding Hood."
A tipoff to the off-kilter portrayal of the church that mars "Red Riding Hood" (Warner Bros.)—an uninvolving update of the classic fairy tale—comes when an attendant gravely announces the arrival on the scene of "His Eminence, Father Solomon."

Such an ecclesiastical gaffe might be forgiven with a smile, did not Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) shortly turn out to be a cynical, sensual inquisitor. A priest renowned for laying lycanthropes low, he has come to the imaginary medieval village of Daggerhorn, where we lay our scene, to rid it of its resident werewolf.

(You can almost hear the pitch meeting: "He's not just a wolf, he's a werewolf!")

Said creature—long held in check by the townsfolk's offering of a chained pig for him to devour every full moon—has lately returned to the rampage, with fatal consequences for the sister of the titular maiden (Amanda Seyfried) who here goes by the name Valerie.

Poor Valerie's life is complicated enough without marauding monsters to worry about. As the opening scenes reveal, she is caught in a love triangle with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)—the youth she has loved since childhood—in one corner, and Henry (Max Irons)—scion of the richest family in town to whom she has been unwillingly betrothed—in the other.

Valerie, needless to say, lives only for romance, but her more practical-minded parents Suzette (Virginia Madsen) and Cesaire (Billy Burke) think hubby Henry will put food on the table. Where is a girl to turn for solace? Why to Grandmother's (Julie Christie) house, of course.

Father Solomon, meanwhile, has infected Daggerhorn with paranoia by announcing to the assembled citizenry that the wolf-man is no stranger, but someone in their very midst.

This might have been the departure point for an interesting study in mutual suspicion, along the lines of Arthur Miller's anti-McCarthy allegory, "The Crucible."

Instead, Father Solomon busies himself torturing a defenseless half-wit before setting his prosecutorial sights on Valerie, after deciding the girl in the harlot-colored hood—who, it turns out, can communicate with his beastly adversary—is a witch.

Peter and Henry put their rivalry aside and struggle gallantly to spring her from Solomon's clutches. (Even so, one doubts the appearance, anytime soon, of T-shirts reading "Camp Peter" or "Camp Henry.")

Though screenwriter David Leslie Johnson is to be commended for turning out a script virtually devoid of objectionable language, he has included a scene where only chance intervenes to prevent the physical consummation of Valerie and Peter's bond.

As directed by Catherine Hardwicke, moreover, the glum proceedings are low on entertainment value or emotional impact. As for the complexities of church history embodied in Father Solomon's problematic persona, while well-grounded adults may be counted on to sort them through, they make this "Twilight" wannabe totally unsuitable for its targeted teen audience.

The film contains a skewed treatment of Catholicism, brief nongraphic premarital sexual activity and moderate but sometimes gory violence. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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