Saturday, May 30, 2020

Family Fun Saturday - Red Riding Hood (1989)

The Cannon Group, 1989
Starring Amelia Shankley, Isabella Rossillini, Craig T. Nelson, and Rocco Sisto
Directed by Adam Brooks
Music by Stephan Lawrence; Lyrics by Michael Korte

Undaunted by the failure of The Apple, the Cannon Group returned to making musicals in 1986. This time, however, they used more traditional show tunes to tell well-known fairy tales for the family market. We've already seen two earlier releases in the Cannon Movie Tales series, Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast. How does the final movie in the series compare, not only to those, but to the original Grimm's story? Let's start off in the woods as little Linet (Shankley) searches for fairies and find out...

The Story: Linet lives with her mother Jean (Rossillini) at the edge of the forest. Jean was once a great lady who lived in a castle, but after her husband Percival (Nelson) vanished during the war, his wicked twin Godfrey (Nelson) took over. Godfrey (Nelson) wishes to marry Jean and believes his brother to be dead, but she remains true to her husband. After he beats a peasant farmer (Julian Chagrin) who owes him taxes, the farmer is healed by Jean's kindly mother Bess (Helen Glazary). Wanting to know more about this, he sends his lackey Dagger (Sisto), a wolf who can transform into a man, after Bess. Linet runs into him in the woods, where he persuades her to pick wildflowers for her grandmother. Even if he can't get Granny, he still may be able to get his big eyes and teeth on the fearless little girl...

The Song and Dance: Not bad. Rossellini makes a lovely, motherly noblewoman, and Sisto is obviously having a great time as the half-man, half-wolf who so enjoys doing what he does. Shankley is fine when we actually see her. The segments filmed outdoors look just as good here as they did in Rumpelstiltskin, with just the right soft fantasy look.

Favorite Number: Sisto delights in prancing around to his big villain song, "Good at Being Bad," as he describes why he loves what he does. Rossillini first sings the touching "You Won't Be Here In the Morning" to reassure Linet that she'll be safe. Nelson performs it later as Percival finds his way back to the kingdom. The peasants recall earlier days of more fertile crops in the film's sole large chorus number, "Green In the Blue." Sisto and Shankley describe why one should never trust the people we meet on the road in the catchy "Never Talk to Strangers."

What I Don't Like: The side story with the twin brothers and Jean and Nanny Bess is unnecessary padding at best, confusing at worst. Linet isn't in most of the movie that's supposed to be about her. She doesn't even get the famous red cape until half-way through the movie! The wolf being a werewolf is creepy as heck and may come off as more than a little uncomfortable for many people today. Nelson is too American for this story and is completely out of place, whether he's the good or bad brother. At lease he has a good singing voice, which is more than can be said for Rossellini, Her "You Won't Be There In the Morning" comes off as tuneless. There's also that tinny synthesizer score and the cheap sets and werewolf makeup that are at odds with the fairy tale magic they're trying to convey.

The Big Finale:  Worth seeing at least once if you love fairy tales or have kids who are fantasy fans.

Home Media: Easy to find for cheap on DVD and streaming. Vudu currently has it for free with ads.


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