Little Red Riding Hood

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 29, 2015

Two ways to elaborate these little archetypal fables? One is to try to make them convincing, to have them correspond in some way to actual realities. That seems difficult and perilous. I can think of examples, but you’ll angrily disagree, and then we may co-identify any number of dubious attempts.

Here we see the second way, which is to ham it up and wink a lot. Whether the perpetrators are aware of it or not, this kind of flavourful performances may derive all the way from Greek New Comedy, or the Commedia dell’arte. To wink is to fracture, or to be post-modern. Except that Cervantes did it too. Maybe the roots don’t matter so much, at least in this context. The basic thing is that you’re present, aware, contributing, expanding. That’s what the Theatre for Young Audiences movement is for, what it is. And it’s all over the best children’s media productions too.

Anyway, and all that being said, some of these performances are a hoot. John Vernon, Frances Bay’s hilarious granny, and Malcolm McDowell’s positively bone-cracking malice as he essays the part of the wolf. He and Steenburgen were married at the time, weren’t they? Yikes! Or, good luck to all of us.

True to Duvall’s take on Rapunzel (Paul Zelinsky’s beautiful rendering reflects it as well), this version of LRRH touches fairly substantially (though not exclusively) on the story’s sexual parallels, or underpinnings. Note the wolf’s rather shocking comments after eating the eponymous heroine. There’s another angle, lurking down there. It’s spectacularly addressed and articulated in Stephen Sondheim’s “I Know Things Now,” from Into the Woods. The standard tales as standardly told are full of warnings about the dire results of dalliance. But that’s not all there is to it, is there? At some point, kids will want to have sex. And after that they’ll probably, eventually, have it. That’s what fairy tales are about! Or a lot of them anyway. As mentioned in a previous posts, some huffing moralists won’t necessarily like these programs. Right they are. So is this: parents produce, care for, love, nurture and, eventually, just end up getting in the way of their flowering offspring.