Some movies are so hypnotically goofy that they separate the bad movie connoisseur from the merely curious, the devotee from the dilettante. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting The Wicker Man.
Producer-star Nicolas Cage and writer-director Neil LaBute based their folie a deux on the 1973 Brit-made cult favorite about a cop – a virgin Christian cop, no less – losing his marbles, and more, on a weird Scottish isle ruled by pagan law. “Something bad is about to happen; I can feel it,” gurgles troubled motorcycle cop Cage in the 2006 remake. Something wonderfully bad is about to happen, thank you oh Gods of Bad Movie-dom, and the mirth kicks in when Cage gets lured to remote, idyllic, honey-producing Summersisle in the Pacific Northwest to hunt for the missing daughter of his wild child ex-girlfriend (Kate Beahan, lips looking suitably bee-stung).
All sorts of weirdness rules this sun-dappled island that looks like something out of Thomas Kinkade set-dressed by Martha Stewart. The place is run by glassy-eyed, earth tone-clad “sisters” who direct the island’s Village of the Damned-style schoolgirls and mute males consigned to tending the bee farms and breeding. Cage, apparently convinced he’s doing High Art when he’s really just redoing Queen of Outer Space with Ellen Burstyn as the wicked queen, unleashes lunatic operatic splendor worthy of a latter-day Joan Crawford or Bette Davis when he pulls a gun on a bike riding, mask-wearing beauty and growls at her, “Get off the bike! Get off the bike! Step away from the bike! Take your stupid mask.” Or when he stalks around in a bear costume (yes, you read that right) for a Harvest Festival procession that surrounds him with mincing extras dressed like Lilith Fair attendees who flap their arms like birds while Burstyn skulks around buried in blue-and-white war paint and queenly drag apparently designed to hide her from the Oscar committee who might ask her to return her golden statue.
But though respectable co-stars like Burstyn and Frances Conroy thoroughly dishonor themselves, it’s Cage who keeps racking up moments of demented glory, especially when he gets captured by the frenzied cult who chant “Seize the drone!” and cover him in buzzing insects while he wails, “Oh, no! Not the bees!” He’s a stitch punching out a series of female island-dwellers, including an annoying Leelee Sobieski, but ole’ Saint Nic forever enters the brilliantly bad hall of fame when he shoves a scorched doll at Beahan screaming, “How’d it get burned? How’d it get burned? How’d it get burned? How’d it get burned?” How’d he get burned involving himself in The Wicker Man is a question best left unexamined. Because, when we need a change-up from manure masterworks like Valley of the Dolls, Showgirls, Mommie Dearest or The Oscar, we can always light our fire with The Wicker Man.
Stephen Rebello, co-creator of the original "Bad Movies We Love" column, book and film marathons, takes aim at jaw-droppingly, dementedly wonderful Hollywood movies that we like to call "So Bad, They’re Brilliant." Next week: The Colin Farrell/Jamie Foxx mismatch Miami Vice.
Now tell us: What movie do YOU find so bad, it's brilliant?