The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man


Reviewed by: Max Blinkhorn

Oh, Nicolas! The original Wicker Man is a British classic but this remake is so clearly aimed at US audiences, it almost constitutes an international incident. In the original, I recall the excellent Edward Woodward's pompous policeman being highly plausible, and "sinisterness" oozing from every frame of the pseudo-pagan world of Summerisle. The same cannot be said of this new version from director/writer Neil LaBute. Cage is really the problem; he is odd, wooden and thoroughly out of sorts - to play an inept character, one has to be "ept" in the first place; here, Cage is just clumsy and I kept thinking I was hearing Melman from Madagascar every time he spoke.

To start the film, there is a pointless exposition of American life, then a violent and poorly formed crash. Cage, who plays a traffic policeman, tries but fails to save the occupants of the car, a woman and young girl. The policeman is traumatised by this horrible and unnecessary event. He is moping about after the crash (as you would) and receiving support from colleagues and friends etc. (which helps with the exposition no end) when, as if by magic, a beautifully written letter from his old lover from, ooooh, ten years or so back arrives. In the letter, "Willow" (sweetly played by Kate Beahan), the lover, says words to the effect of "Daughter kidnapped or missing, come to SummerIsle and help". It doesn't take an Einsteinian brain to connect the daughter to the girl in the car crash. The story gets back on track with the original when Cage reaches the Island whose main product seems to be honey and which is is the personal fiefdom of one "Sister SummerIsle" (Ellen Burstyn).

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But alas, from hereon in things get more silly and Cage sounds more and more like Melman - even down to being allergic to bee stings and complaining when someone takes his (pathetic) self-esteem boosting audio tape. Variously, he is moved or lead by the plot around the island trying to find the girl, uncovering evidence that she exists even though people have denied it. It's a bit messy here and involves bees and mysterious doctors with less than zero manners (some things never change!)

Were I to describe the crowning moment of scriptwriting ludicrousness in this film, it would spoil the only real laugh available to the audience, so I'll keep shtum but it is a real low point. But then the whole film is generally awful anyway.

The final scene is so close to the original, it's bordering on copying. Woodward's final speech in the original was delivered with conviction and the great competence we would expect from him. Cage's exclamations at the realisation that his number's up reminded me instantly of the tone of that hypochondriac giraffe again. And then he tries to shoot them with his gun! HA! The crowd of strange people close in on him then there's darkness and off camera, we hear the sound of Cage's legs being deliberately broken (yuk!) to make sure he is unable to escape. Pah! It's just plain unconvincing.

I found the new Wicker Man lacking in conviction as an update of the original and failing in its attempt to achieve anything of cinematic merit other than make a good story palatable by appealing to some low common denominator of the US film market. The DVD of the original is due out soon - save your money and buy that instead.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A detective searches for a missing child in a mysterious Pagan community.
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Darren Amner *

Director: Neil LaBute

Writer: Neil LaBute, based on the original 1973 screenplay by Anthony Shaffer

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Frances Conroy, Kate Beahan, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski, Diane Delano, Michael Wiseman, Erika-Shaye Gair

Year: 2006

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Germany/US


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