A wartime romance with Cage as a music loving Italian officer invading Penelope Cruz’s tiny Greek isle. Love, and lame local color ensue. It’s clear after watching this and City of Angels why Cage doesn’t do more love stories. He has zero chemistry with his co-star and can’t summon up much sexual allure. Add in John Madden’s (Shakespeare in Love) journeyman direction, the weird violent ending involving those always evil Nazis, and Cruz’s inherent lack of spark and you’ve got something that suggested an epic emotional journey but only ended up being a irritating, inert period piece.
Again, as he would off and on throughout his career, Cage found salvation in a quirky project just slightly askew from the typical Cineplex fare. Playing twin writers (based on Charlie Kaufman’s struggles to bring the bestseller The Orchid Thief to the big screen) and racking up major awards consideration, Adaptation. would signal the next phase in his so-called rebirth. Again he found both commercial (National Treasure) and critical (Matchstick Men) success. Then he smeared filmic feces on it all by starring in this ridiculous remake of the celebrated British horror cult classic. Few in the audience could look at bees, or the actor, the same way again.
He should have learned after Angels. Wicker was another warning. This much is crystal clear… Nicolas Cage and remakes do not go well together. This time around, a celebrated Thai film by the Pang Brothers was the source. Even more disconcerting, the duo behind the original actually stuck around to make the US update. For his part, Cage, looks bored, tired, uninterested, weak, and anything but a highly trained paid assassin who falls for a deaf mute while on assignment. He is supposed to be the sullen, sour, deadly center of a typical tale of murder and redemption. Instead, he simply kills the film.
After Jerry Bruckheimer managed to manipulate magic—and lots of money—out of Disney’s determined obsession to turn their amusement park rides and classic cartoons into live action adventure films, he was given the keys to Mickey’s kingdom. His first post-Pirates effort was this awful kid flick which managed to both destroy the producer’s powerful Summer movie reputation and fart all over Fantasia simultaneously. While co-star Jay Baruchel stumbles around bravely, looking for a purpose, Cage merely sleepwalks through his role as a wise wizard. Together, they turn an attempt at quality family entertainment into a less than spellbinding experience.
When you think of a Teutonic Knight returning from the Crusades during the middle of the Black Plague, you naturally imagine Nicolas Cage, don’t you? Even better, no one suggests period piece perfection more precisely than a man who reads his lines like he’s ordering a large pie from his favorite neighborhood pizzeria. When critics complain about Cage’s career choices, something like Witch really stands out. It’s the antithesis of everything his time in Tinseltown suggests. Instead of playing uptight urbanites or cleverly layered characters, Cage is merely wandering through the cinematic ages, aimless. Not even a confrontation with the Devil himself can deliver him.
// Notes from the Road
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