Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wicker Man (2006)

Edward Malus: "I only care about the law, sister"

Nicolas Cage
Ellen Burstyn
Kate Beahan

Written By:
Neil La Bute

Directed By:
Neil La Bute

My rating: 1/5 (the 1 is for unintentional hilarity)

**Warning: Contains minor spoilers

To say this film is "so bad it's good" would be an insult to Ed Wood and his cohorts. This film is "so bad I had a great time laughing at it" is a better way to put it. The heavy-handed plotting, silly ending and dreadful acting allowed plenty for room for mocking.

This film does not deliver a serious, genuine attempt to update the story of the original "The Wicker Man" (1973) for the 21st century. I can't imagine how anyone felt that a film set in a remote, ageless island off Scotland actually needed to be updated but, clearly, Neil La Bute did. This film is such a huge departure from La Bute's previous work that perhaps this is how the script ended up feeling like the heavy handed work of a teenage horror movie fan.

From La Bute's earlier films ("In the Company of Men"(1997), Your Friends & Neighbours (1998)) one could expect a subtle, emotional look at the human condition and the inner-workings of the mind of our doomed hero. This film could not be more far removed. The focus of the film is on the mystery and on Nicolas Cage running around waving his gun and punching various women from the island. The character of Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee in the original) is replaced with Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn) and an island full of power-mad women.

The film's plot was also changed remarkably from the original. Firstly, the hero is neither a virgin, nor a devout Christian (two very important details in the original). Secondly there was an added sub-plot involving a tragic car crash in which a little girl was killed that has left a psychological mark on Cage's character. One can only assume this was put in to help the audience understand his desperation to find the missing child. However, to also add that the missing girl is his daughter means that the sub-plot had absolutely no purpose except to allow the director some stylish flashbacks/hallucinations.

Overall, the acting was all horrible. Especially from the usually dependably Nicolas Cage. His jet black hair and heavy, obvious make-up made him look like a cabaret performer and his behavioural inconsistency made this film almost unbearable to watch.

On a slightly positive note, there was some very lovely scenery on the island and some of the cinematography was pretty. Overall, however, the film just didn't create any sense of claustrophobia or that sick feeling in your gut that senses the hero's impending doom. To begin comparing it to the original would be a whole other essay and I will not even get started on it here.

To sum it up, the storyline is full of nonsense, the ending is laughable, the acting is appalling and the only thing I and recommend it for is a very hearty laugh. I did actually enjoy laughing throughout it at the ridiculous exploits of Cage (i.e., punching out a female islander just to take her bear costume).

Let this disaster be a lesson to Hollywood and usually competant director like Mr. La Bute...leave well enough alone and spend your money on a cinematic re-release of the original if you're desperate to keep making money off it!

-Charlene Lydon 7/9/06

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