Not the bees indeed. The bees were cut from this edition of the film, replaced by the screams of Nicolas Cage replicating that one SpongeBob SquarePants fish that says “my legs” in some unknown, forgotten gag. A horrible trade-off for The Wicker Man to take, but there it is. What surrounds this one-trick memery that Cage accidentally stumbled in on is a horrific hatchet job remastering of a Christopher Lee classic from the early 1970s. The Wicker Man was a story of cultism and the Little England mentality that would soon crop up around that period. The Cage-led remake does not have that, it trades it out for the Hollywood showman to give it that star power. In turn, it creates a rapid spiral Cage would soon find himself tumbling through for over a decade.
Nowhere clearer is that than when Cage punches a minor antagonist in the mouth, steals their bear costume, and proceeds to repeat the same process. Punching away at the predominantly women-clad cast, spin-kicking one into a framed photo and pulling a gun on a teacher with a bicycle may sound horrific until realising Cage is, indeed, portraying the hero. He is on a mission to figure out whatever happened to a missing girl, although that gets bogged down in the various avenues of strange and lacklustre quality The Wicker Man can relay. It fails both as a remake and as an individual piece of horror because of how polished and underwhelming it feels.
There is no message to be found within as there was with the original. Cage is always on hand for some relatively entertaining work, but it is the variety that would lend itself to the work audiences love to laugh at, rather than love to engage with. The Wicker Man feels like the catalyst for that, and it is the great redeemer of his career at times. He’s clearly giving it a real go, and despite a horrendous script and some shoddy direction from Neil LaBute, there’s a real feeling of passion from Cage throughout. You can hand a man a terrible script that sees him startled by a crow and dreaming of children hit by trucks, but you cannot stomp out his passion. LaBute tries hard though, there is little within The Wicker Man that can really redeem Cage or anyone around him.
But is that not the charm of this feature? The Wicker Man was just one in a long string of ill-fated Hollywood establishment adaptations. It just so happens that this one had Cage within it, whose panicked reaction to such a bad script is to hammer it home as best he can. More power to him, he makes for an entertaining lead and even salvages a few scenes. It does not do much to elevate The Wicker Man, but it feels almost watchable at times. If it weren’t for how scattershot its opening is and how duly predictable the dialogue can be at times, it’d be a shaky classic that depends almost entirely on its leading man.