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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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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