1 1/2 StarsNeil Labute the former playwright/stage director turned film director has been labeled the ‘master of misogynistic movies’ by his detractors. With such strong but polarizing work as In The Company of Men and The Shape of Things, it seems something as silly as The Wicker Man would be the antithesis of Labute’s artistic sensibility. This remake of the 1973 film stars Nicolas Cage as a police officer in a nightmarish situation involving a pagan woman’s cult and the disappearance of a little girl. Some may recall that the original showcased an all men’s religious group living in Scotland, surprisingly the innovative change in sexes and location greatly benefit this incarnation.
The Wicker Man opens with a memorable title sequence. Cage is CHP officer Edward Malus, who happens to be trailing a car when the child in the rear seat throws her doll out the window. Malus flags the car over and issues a polite warning to the mother and young daughter. Almost instantly the girl throws the doll back onto the highway, as Cage retrieves the toy a big-rig truck slams into the car, instantly killing all passengers. Haunted by this Edward is forced to take time off from work and see a shrink. So far so good, yet what happens next has virtually no tie-in to the opening so we are left with a story that seems to be headed down a path before zinging into a new direction.
While on work-leave Edward receives a letter from an ex-lover claiming her daughter has gone missing. Trouble is that she along with her child lives amongst an all female secular group on an island somewhere in the Pacific northwest. So after the urgent beckoning detective Edward Malus shows up and is greeted with nothing but disdain and misinformation by the residents of Summerslsle. Thus beginning the mystery and discovery of just what happened to the missing girl.
The film starts out strong with that compelling first scene and then becomes maddeningly frustrating as we watch Nic Cage’s character wander around Summerslsle looking for answers and getting nowhere. Until finally the movie grows so silly and laughable that the little interest or suspense that has been built is quickly dismantled. Just when the movie really started growing on me, the screenplay dictates that Cage drape himself in an oversized bear costume, get this, to blend into the festival taking place on the isolated island. Its one of the unintentionally laughable moments, that unfortunately spring up all to often in this frustrating remake.
Director: Neil LaBute
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski