Sometimes movie-watching is like riding a roller-coaster - you end up exactly where you started, but the thrill you experience during the ride is all you are looking for. Examples of this would be Terminator 2, True Lies. Sometimes it is like climbing a mountain - you sweat and toil during the climb, but the view it affords in the end is worth all the effort - it gives a glimpse of life you are willing to work for. Watching "The Wicker Man" is like boarding a flight to go to some exotic destination, you sit in the plane on the runway waiting for it to take off, and at the end of two hours, you are simply informed that was the journey and are asked to get off. The journey is neither worth the destination, nor the destination worth the journey.
Edward Malus (Nicholas Cage), a sheriff whose daily work is patrolling the highways, gets a letter from his former fiancee'(who left him for apparently no good reason, a few years ago), asking him for help in finding her now 5-year-old daughter who has mysteriously disappeared.
After undergoing the necessary emotions, Malus decides to go to Summersisle - the location of the girl's disappearance- which is an ominous and mysterious farm community located in an island in the Pacific Northwest. Malus is confronted by the weird inhabitants, their strange customs and hostile attitude during his search for the missing girl.
Under normal circumstances, a half-way decent screenplay could have extracted an amusing movie out of this premise. Not here. The movie misfires on all cylinders. Brilliant actors are criminally wasted - Nicholas Cage gallantly strives to save the movie with his commitment and skills, but to no avail. The grand dame of method acting, Ellen Burstyn, looks outright silly- now that is an accomplishment. Even the gifted composer Angelo Badalamenti, the genius who churns out masterpieces for David Lynch, provides an ever present, rankling background score that is more a nuisance than anything else. The supporting characters are so witless and clueless, they seem to exist just to mouth some cryptic-sounding blabber and squint and stare pointlessly. Once the movie shifts to the island, there is not a single exchange that seems authentic or sounds true.
Of course, the movie tries to execute a slew of textbook horror movie tricks. But in an un-engaging narrative, they look like the tricks of a pathetically exposed magician, who is determined to continue performing. Here is a tip - if a studio withholds the press screening of a movie before its release (as it happened with this one), there is a message to be heard - don't waste your time by even bothering to try it. Let the movie critics be the ones to voluntarily subject themselves to these kinds of exercises in pointlessness. Dear readers, listen and heed.
Note: This article was originally published in dailycampus.com