Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nicholas Cage Runs From Being The Next Wicker Man In The Wicker Man!

The Good: Good cast
The Bad: Terrible acting, Predictable plot, Hammy, hammy acting, Nothing stellar in character
The Basics: While The Wicker Man starts with an intriguing hook, it quickly degenerates into Nicholas Cage running around screaming. Not worth your time.

No sooner had I recovered from my disappointment from watching Pulse than I found myself subjected to The Wicker Man, the 2006 remake of the 1973 screenplay by Anthony Shaffer. Reviewing The Wicker Man brought instantly to mind the exchange between C-3P0 and Han Solo in the middle of Star Wars: A New Hope, when R2-D2 is playing a game against Chewbacca. Solo advises R2-D2 to let Chewbacca win, to which C-3P0 declares, "No one worries about upsetting a droid." "That's because a droid don't tear your arms off when he loses," Solo responds. Watching The Wicker Man, all I could think was "No one worries about upsetting a Wiccan."

Edward Malus, a motorcycle cop in California, assists a mother and daughter on the highway when a truck collides with their car, killing both. Placed on the sick list, Edward works to get his nerves back and receives an intriguing letter from his former fiance in the mail from the station. This leads Edward to an island off Washington to search for his ex-fiance's daughter who may or may not exist, may or may not be dead and the viewer may or (let's not kid ourselves, this is the option that counts) may not care about.

The first five minutes of The Wicker Man are the best in the movie, being the most exciting, intriguing, well acted and well directed. During the first five minutes, Nicholas Cage is Edward Malus, beat cop. We believe him, he is a character, we care. After Edward journeys to Summersisle, the movie quickly degenerates into a film one would expect to see parodied in Scary Movie 5. Everything begins to break down. In fact, there is a precise moment when Nicholas Cage is running through a field of bees that I was watching the movie and was forced to acknowledge it was Nicholas Cage (not Edward) running through the field.

This disconnect where the actor falls out of character intensifies as Cage begins to yell at virtually every woman on the island. Edward is transformed from a quiet, introspective "law and order" guy to a screaming maniac and it doesn't fit the character. But it's easy to see Nicholas Cage in this in that we've seen him play angry characters before. As he yells and runs around, the sense that he is acting becomes lost to the idea that Nicholas Cage is on screen.

Sadly, while Cage breaks character from mild-mannered to freak, the rest of the cast is not graced with genuine character to begin with. The Wicker Man is populated by truly great actresses, though this is not a movie that exhibits the talents of any one of them. Ellen Burstyn, second billed, appears rather late in the movie as Sister Summersisle. Burstyn portrayed a wonderful, strong female character in one of my favorite movies, The Spitfire Grill (reviewed here!) and I recently saw her in Requiem For A Dream. In The Wicker Man, Burstyn exhibits none of her talents. In fact, Burstyn is playing Louise Fletcher as Sister Summersisle. Burstyn sounds and acts like Fletcher (best known as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest).

Similarly, Frances Conroy, who earned my respect for her solemn, quietly desperate portrayal of Ruth Fisher in Six Feet Under (reviewed here!) is knocked further off her pedestal for appearing in this drecht. As with her performance in Catwoman (reviewed here!), Conroy is stuck in the role of "wise crone" and her part is simply an archetype role being filled. There is nothing genuine or distinctive about the character of Dr. Moss or Conroy's portrayal of her.

There is not another single actress in The Wicker Man who impresses the viewer. All of the castmembers play generic tree-hugging women who are ready to engage in human sacrifice to appease their deity. This part of the plot seems especially silly in this day in age and writer-director Neil LaBute seems to have no problem with making women look ridiculous and infantile or with mocking wicca.

On that front, I return to my comment from A New Hope. Wicca is an ancient religion and while it is not the mainstream religion of the United States, its practitioners deserve the same basic respect that we give people who practice Christianity, Judaism, Deism, Scientology, Hinduism or any other of the hundreds of religions out there. Somewhen it became chic to mock wicca and witchcraft and horror movies have a tendency to exploit that. The Wicker Man is an especially ugly interpretation of arcane Celtic-Wiccan religions and what offends me is the double standard our society tolerates. When Kevin Smith released Dogma, he received death threats. The Wicker Man portrays wiccans (and women in general!) as a hyperbole of brainless and/or bloodthirsty and nothing happens.

Oh yeah, that's because wiccan's don't tear your arms off when they lose.


The Wicker Man is a horror film that is not scary nor entertaining. The performances are almost universally bland and none of the characters have . . . well, character. This movie is not worth your time. It wasn't truly worth mine to write about it.

For other movies with Nicholas Cage, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Family Man
Snake Eyes


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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