Saturday, January 13

:: Wicker Man = Wicked Funny

The funniest thing I’ve seen since I watched “I (heart) Huckabees” – and loved it – is the remake of The Wicker Man. The good people of Belgium had to wait until yesterday for this movie to open, and I just couldn’t stay away. It turned out to be hilariously campy, one of those movies that is so bad it makes you laugh, yet not so bad that it is unwatchable.

“The Wicker Man” does not benefit from comparison to another movie about the disappearance of young girl that was filmed in the coastal Northwest and uses the settings of a barn, a ferry and a cistern. “The Ring” had eerily beautiful imagery and an intriguing subtext concerning reproduction and responsibility. “The Wicker Man” has moments of surreal stupidity, as when Nicholas Cage runs through the forest dressed as a bear, and an idiotic subtext of gender-based paranoia.

Reviewers have called this movie misogynist, but that is not quite right. Instead, it is gynephobic. Writer/director Neil LaBute is apparently afraid that all women are evil, conniving bitches who would like nothing more than to lure him towards a gory doom. But the things that LaBute finds scary – a lot of blond women in the same place, “goddess” worship, organic honey – are just not scary to normal people. Thus the movie plays as a parody – think “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” or Monty Python’s vorpal Rabbit. And after a while, the obtuseness of Cage’s character forces the audience’s sympathies to shift to the evil women of Summerfield Island; I soon found myself rooting for their every ploy.

Ultimately, LaBute creates a protagonist who is simply too dumb to live; when the movie reaches its sadistic final minutes, death really does seem like the blessing the women of Summerfield island believe it to be - even if our hero is too stupid, rude and flammable to appreciate it.

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