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Running Time:
1 hour, 46 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
A dismal remake of the cult classic thriller.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: 2 editions of the movie - an unrated version (side A) with an alternate end sequence not shown theatrically, and the widescreen theatrical release version (side B); Commentary by writer/director Neil LaBute, co-stars Leelee Sobieski and Kate Beahan, editor Joel Plotch and costume designer Lynette Meyer ; Theatrical trailer; Subtitles: English, Fançais, Español (feature film only)

The Wicker Man
Nicolas Cage plays Edward Malus, a rude, obnoxious, and clueless California highway patrolman tormented by the apparent death of a girl in a highway accident. He's contacted by his former girlfriend Willow (Kate Beahan), who has moved to an isolated island in the Pacific northwest, off the coast of Washington State. She wants him to come there to help find her missing daughter. When he arrives on the desolate island, he finds that it's inhabited by a weird population of pagan beekeepers headed by Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn).

His efforts to locate the child, or even learn if she ever existed, or was merely a figment of Willow’s imagination, are thwarted until the group’s real purpose for him is revealed in a huge ritualistic finale.

This is a remake of the 1973 horror film written by Anthony Shaffer ("Sleuth). In that version, the journey of Sergeant Howie, played by Edward Woodward was genuinely disturbing and riveting. In this incarnation, director Neil LaBute has miscalculated badly in his changes. Moving the story from an isolated island inhabited by the remnants of an old Druidic cult surviving in a remote location off the Scottish coast to an island in Puget Sound is much more difficult to believe. Also LaBute's decision to turn the island's inhabitants into a female-dominated population in which men are completely subservient, functioning only as breeders and laborers, comes across as ludicrous.

But the most fatal change LaBute has wrought is removing the religious implications. The original story pitted priggish Christian religiosity against the paganism of the remote island. In this version there's no hint of that until the final moments when it suddenly becomes a festival of death and rebirth. Nicholas Cage using his entire repertoire of tics and grimaces gives one of his worst performances in years. He can't seem to help but overact.

This is made all the more noticeable by the subdued performances by the rest of the cast. As the ex-lover who's hiding more than she's telling, Kate Beahan is merely credible. Ellen Burstyn, with her ill-fitting false teeth, chews the scenery mercilessly. Molly Parker is good in a small role as a snooty schoolteacher, Diane Delano gets some laughs as the proprietor of the cult’s boarding house and the once promising Leelee Sobieski has a small, insignificant role as the local sexpot. There are also a variety of young girls who amble around looking like refugees from M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village." If that film was a dud, this one's even worse. Although Paul Sarossy’s widescreen cinematography is quite lovely and Angelo Badalamenti’s eerie score is effective, this movie is just boring and weird rather than engrossing and frightening.

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