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Case Number 10995

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The Wicker Man (2006) (HD DVD)

Warner Bros. // 2006 // 102 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // March 12th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Ryan Keefer is avoiding the obvious furniture reference and throwing a copy of this disc at the nearest Pier One store.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Wicker Man (2006), published December 19th, 2006, is also available.

The Charge

Some sacrifices must be made.

Opening Statement

The only thing that I had known about The Wicker Man coming into it was that Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) was the star of a remake of the 1973 film. It opened to mild popular anticipation and closed with a whimper. So now that it's available on HD DVD, the questions are not only how does it look with over 1,000 lines of resolution, but is this film really what people think it is?

Facts of the Case

The remake has been written and directed by Neil Labute (Nurse Betty) and starts off with Edward Malus (Cage), a motorcycle policeman in Northern California, who suffers the traumatic experience of a failed rescue of a child and her mother. During some time off, he receives a letter from a former fiancée of his (Kate Beahan, Flightplan) that reports her daughter as missing, so he goes to Summersisle, an island, which he discovers is very classic in its sense of community, but it appears to also cover a larger secret that is revealed later.

The Evidence

I want to say this for those unfamiliar with The Wicker Man. It has two Oscar winners in it. I want to repeat that because it bears repeating, as Cage, whose choice of movie roles can be conservatively described as "eclectic" is a more logical choice for a silly film, that's a given. But in Burstyn, we have, for my money, one of the more underrated actresses of the last 30 years. And in The Wicker Man, she barely appears in the film, and when she does, her key scene is with her wearing face paint in two different colors, a la Mel Gibson in Braveheart, the only difference being if Gibson was actually my wife's seemingly eternally semi-drunk aunt. And if that Aunt had the power to convene a Lillith festival at the drop of a hat, then I'd say the resemblance is truly uncanny.

There were several different things said to me before and during my viewing of The Wicker Man which I'll share here. My wife had some good ones during the film, one of which was Beahan having the "largest eyes ever," along with seeing how the film was going to end without having to be put through taking the rest of the film seriously. Another good one came from a friend of mine from work, who basically equated the people of Summersisle to "Children of the Corn on the WE Network, mixed with a good dose of mood stabilizers." After he said that, he said his nose started bleeding and he passed out, most likely due to an overexposure of silliness that the film administers and poses with as tight a jaw as possible. Seriously, when your movie is nominated for five "Razzie" awards as one of the worst films of 2007, can you really work yourself out of this slump?

And it's a shame too, because Cage comes off as quite silly in the film. After being told that there is no phone service on the island, he still manages to try and use his cell phone for service. He is a cop with a gun that he doesn't hesitate to wear, but doesn't use until there's some sort of long term consequence. Never mind that he does something early on that virtually telegraphs the film's ending, even if you haven't seen the original. There's a fight sequence between his character and Sister Honey (Leelee Sobieski, Eyes Wide Shut) that is off the charts funny yet is portrayed as deadly serious and crucial to Cage's character finding out the truth about the island. In a mysterious location where the few men who live on the island are essentially muted eunuchs, Cage should have just disappeared into the background and faded away, instead of playing the semi-nervous cop who doesn't really know how to conduct his business.

The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen looks nice enough in high definition, as there are a lot of shots of the Washington countryside that possess a lot of depth and clarity, however some of the forestry shots are a little bit hazy upon further review. I wasn't overly impressed of the whole picture. The Dolby TrueHD track is a bit of a surprise addition that is lost on the film itself. The big scene in the film (if you've seen the trailer you know which one I'm referring to) sounds good when you hear it, over and over and over again. There is a commentary with Labute and various different members of the cast and crew which clearly was recorded as the film was about to be released and was recorded together, which was a surprise. Everyone is pretty jovial and likes what they did for the film, it's a pity that it wasn't done later to see the overall mess that came afterwards.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Like Judge Brett Cullum, I was kind of surprised that Cage didn't provide any sort of contribution on the supplemental material. Granted, I would have basically bagged on anything he would have said while trying to figure out his motivations for producing this thing, but sometimes you can't just "let the work stand for itself," you know?

Closing Statement

Well, the film looks good and sounds OK, but should you spend an hour and a half of your time watching this thing? To tell you the truth, I'd save the energy and spend it on going outside, maybe watching a good movie, because this is just isn't worth it. I find it oddly ironic, maybe prophetic is a better word, than Labute's best known work might be In the Company of Men, which had been criticized for its treatment of women, and yet almost a decade later, he still hasn't appeared to have grown up.

The Verdict

Much as I hate to do it, the court finds Labute, Cage, and the other cast and crew members guilty of producing a complete and utter failure and almost embarrassing anyone who ever saw and liked the original. Let them face the same fate as Malus did, court is in recess.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 86
Extras: 16
Acting: 21
Story: 14
Judgment: 22

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genres:
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary with Writer/Director Neil LaBute, co-stars Leelee Sobieski and Kate Beahan, Editor Joel Plotch and Costume Designer Lynette Meyer
• Trailer








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