Sometimes, the critics are just wrong. This week, we’re bringing Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man back from the dead.
The Wicker Man (2006)
Director: Neil LaBute
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy
IMDb rating: 3.6
Metacritic rating: 36
I have previously written essays on my undying love for all things Nicolas Cage, and I will probably go on to write many more. The man is an enigma, draped in a myth, wrapped in a whirlwind of bug-eyed insanity. I’m proud to say (although shame would probably be more apt) that I have watched every single one of his films at least three times. Even Deadfall. In an odd and mainly accidental way, Neil LaBute’s phenomenally misjudged remake of The Wicker Man ranks alongside Adaptation and Face/Off as one of the most entertaining entries in the hallowed and Correllian canon of Cage. In fact, it makes a very strong case for the title of Greatest Good-Bad Movie of the 21st Century, second only to The Room.
The Wicker Man ranks alongside Adaptation and Face/Off as one of the most entertaining entries in the hallowed canon of Cage
That now infamous final scene, one that took the haunting conclusion to Robin Hardy’s original and lathered it in unintentional hilarity, remains The Wicker Man remake’s unfortunate calling card. But this is not some one hit wonder kind of crapfest – LaBute’s Wicker Man is a relative smorgasbord of incompetent delights from beginning to end. The appalling dialogue, acting that ranges from the rubbish to the incredulous and a scene in which the almighty rage-Cage uppercuts Diane Delano all mash together to create the perfect cinematic storm – a movie with not a single redeeming quality, unless you count its rampant ineptitude.
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The Wicker Man just takes itself so damn seriously, only to righteously screw up on every conceivable level – if someone had made this film deliberately, they would be branded a comic genius. Then again, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun. Oddly enough, The Wicker Man was the movie that cemented Nicolas Cage as my favourite actor of all time. Sure, it’s all well and good picking up awards willy-nilly and becoming a critical darling, but it’s way more interesting when an actor’s back catalogue ranges from the sublime to the catastrophic. Just look at Cage’s turn in Vampire’s Kiss, then compare it with Leaving Las Vegas – Cage is one of the few screen presences whose sheer batshit insanity can single-handedly elevate or destroy a project.
Nic Cage is the horse-faced, American language remake of Klaus Kinski, and you get the full range of his ridiculousness here
Cage is the horse-faced, American language remake of Klaus Kinski, and you get the full range of Cage-ian ridiculousness here, with the best/worst actor on the planet alternately phoning in and over-egging his performance (“How’d it get buuuuuurned?”), winging the entire film in a glorious masterclass of mis-delivered dialogue and oddly hilarious running. It’s a deliriously messy performance at the heart of a deliriously messy film, one that makes gradually less and less sense as the whole thing slowly devolves into a remarkably pretentious, completely accidental farce.
When Nicolas Cage describes a project as “absurd,” you know you’re in for a treat. I’ve seen The Wicker Man around a dozen times at this point, and it’s a gift that just keeps on giving. As a long-time admirer of good-bad movies and the life-affirming insanity of Cage’s back catalogue, this is a film that truly feels like home. No matter how bad my day, no matter who I’m with or where I am, this is something I can chuck on and release a little bit of pure, unadulterated joy back into the world. As incompetent bang for your sadistic buck goes, it’s hard to think of any film in recent memory that makes a set of talented and experienced people look quite as moronic as LaBute’s The Wicker Man. It’s nonsensical, badly written, horrendously acted and – above all – absolutely hilarious.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an extensive collection of Nicolas Cage dubstep remixes to browse.
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All images: Warner Bros