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Warner Home Video presents
The Wicker Man (Unrated) (2006)

"Edward, be careful. And believe nothing what you see and hear."
- Willow (Kate Beahan)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 03, 2007

Stars: Nicolas Cage
Other Stars: Kate Beahan, Ellyn Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker, Frances Conroy, Diane Delano, Erika-Shaye Gair
Director: Neil LaBute

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues
Run Time: 01h:41m:48s
Release Date: December 19, 2006
UPC: 085391100935
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D-BB B-

DVD Review

When I first heard about the intended remake of Robin Hardy's classic 1973 pagan/Celtic/mystery/thriller I felt a little ill, and when I finally saw the theatrical trailer for Neil LaBute's reimagining I had to really struggle to hold it all back. It looked like a trendy, soulless, cookie cutter jump scare rehash, it gave me a bad feeling wrapped in a wave of nausea, and I had to wonder if I could possibly have been the only person on the planet who knew that no level of good could come from remaking The Wicker Man.

I know remakes are theoretically made for the generations that were too young to have seen the original, and in my crusty old-guy cynicism I think it's probably rare when someone under twenty would ever pop in a movie made before the year 2000, let alone 1973. And for all of those virgin eyeballs who first experience LaBute's wobbly take on The Wicker Man mythos (with all of Nicolas Cage's incessantly hammy shrieking and yelling), I truly feel a twinge of sadness and pity, because the powerful magick of Hardy's film is now forever tainted and spoiled.

LaBute has sloppily tweaked the story somewhat in a number of spots, but at its most basic it is still about a police officer (Nicolas Cage) who is investigating a missing girl report on the isolated and mysterious island of Summersisle, whose inhabitants are equally mysterious. The investigation seems the ultimate exercise in futility, and sadly this gives Cage the opportunity to comically overact a number of times as he barrels his way around the island, eventually having a bad acting face off with Ellyn Burstyn, who just never comes close to matching Christopher Lee (see the original) in the politely threatening department as the head honcho of Summersisle.

The variations in LaBute's version are unceremoniously heavy-handed (like a dream-in-dream fake out), and reek of cheap desperation created simply to try and stir up or modernize the remake, so that despite a nice performance from Kate Beahan as the doe-eyed and fearful Willow, the whole shebang misfires horribly. Any modicum of suspense or mystery gets deflated by far too much discussion of what will eventually take place, so when the big reveal occurs the impact has been dramatically softened. Instead, we get Cage occasionally punching women and bugging his eyes out like a madman for 101 minutes.

On somewhat of a positive note, this release from Warner Bros. carries both the theatrical and unrated versions of LaBute's film. If by some catastrophic twist of fate you find yourself about to put this particular DVD in your player, at least choose the unrated version, simply because not only will you get a nice bit of Misery-esque torture, but the dreadful coda found on the PG-13 cut has been removed.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Overall a very nice 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Warner Brothers on this one. Colors do seem a bit soft during the early part of the first act, but as things progress the depth and richness of the colors does seem to intensify. I'm unclear if this was some intentional cue from LaBute or not, but it's really the only moderate beef about this release. Otherwise, edges look well-defined, there's no grain issues to contend with and no evidence of print damage. Nice color rendering throughout, with fleshtones taking on a warm, golden hue.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track does its best to rescue LaBute's premise, and the presentation utilizes some effective rear channel cues to make some of the conceptually eerie goings-on on Summersisle seem actually spooky. It doesn't necessarily work in that regard, but the mix does provide a fair amount of movement from all channels, so at least this one doesn't just lie there flatly. Voice clarity is clear, and is never overshadowed by the score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Neil LaBute, Leelee Sobieski, Kate Beahan, Joel Plotch, Lynette Myer
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This two-sided disc has the unrated version (01h:41m:48s) on side A with side B carrying the original PG-13 theatrical version (01m:41m:56s). Having both cuts (despite the garish "shocking alternate ending" blurb on the cover) is the closest thing to a saving grace on this release, because the unrated version at least had the decency to get a little uglier in the final act, and to ditch the cheesy coda found on the original theatrical version.

Both editions of the film carry nearly identical commentary tracks from writer/director Neil LaBute, editor Joel Plotch, costume designer Lynette Myer, and cast members Kate Beahan and Leelee Sobieski. There are some slight variations when it does come time to discuss the differences in the two versions, and on the unrated track LaBute does offer some explanation of how the film needed to be cut to get it issued as PG-13. As far as commentaries in general go, it's not awful, and there seems to be a fair amount of info and pleasantries. The thing is—as is often the case with a DVD I really just didn't care for—the participants all do seem properly proud and enamored of the final project, making my overall disinterest seem nothing short of spiteful. But honestly, I just don't care, because nothing will make this remake a good idea in my head.

The theatrical trailer is also available, once on each side. Each version is cut into 25 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Why could no one realize that this was a bad, bad idea from every possible angle before it was made?

Aside from the questionable issue of the need to remake everything, this one just continually tramples on the glory of Robin Hardy's brilliant original film, with LaBute removing nearly all elements of mystery and suspense by pummeling viewers with cheap jump scares and outright explanations before the final act, right down to the tag line on the cover.

At one point Nicolas Cage's character says "Something bad is about to happen. I can feel it." Ain't that the truth.


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