Wicker Man may be a remake, but at least it's not another remake of an Asian horror movie. The Wicker Man is all American, and with that comes an obvious plot and a decided lack of scares. It also means Nicolas Cage instead of an unknown teenage actress or worse, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The film begins with a shocking car wreck, surprising more because if its suddenness than because of anything unique done with its filming. Nicolas Cage plays Edward Malus, a rail thin motorcycle cop on the scene when a parked station wagon carrying a mother and daughter is struck head on by a Mac truck. Malus leaps into action and struggles to save the little girl, but the car bursts into flames, and then (as they so often do in Hollywood movies) explodes.
Malus is haunted by the accident, and his resulting nightmares only get worse when he receives a letter from an ex-fiancée asking for help to find her missing daughter. Malus is eager to play the hero, and leaps into action. Leaping into action means traveling to a remote Pacific coast island called Summer Isle, home to a strange, isolationist, religious cult dominated by women. It's kind of like The Village, if the women had cut out all the men's tongues.
There Malus finds his ex-fiancée and begins an investigation to find her daughter. He's stonewalled at every turn, and as his frustration builds Nic Cage gradually loses all control over his hair. The man doesn't have much left as it is, so when he's no longer able to manage those few wisps you know things have gotten pretty bad.
Long before the movie ends with its big reveal, you'll know what's going on, whether or not you've seen the original. That's alright, getting there is pleasant even if you've figured out where The Wicker Man is headed. It's Cage, the guy's just a pleasure to watch. Writer/director Neil LaBute seems to know just how to use him, and sends him panicking and panting all over the island in a desperate, probably futile hunt for non-existent clues.
If there's a problem with the film, it's the script, or perhaps it would be more correct to say the concept. As a 1976 cult thriller starring Christopher Lee, The Wicker Man was pretty scary. LaBute does a decent job of translating it to 2006, but the idea behind it just isn't as cool as it once was. In LaBute's version, the not-so-surprising surprise ending seems silly and laughable, and I'm not sure there really is any way he could have saved it. I might have started by not having Nic Cage running around in a bear suit, but other than that I don't know where else there is to go with it. The Wicker Man is capably handled, it just doesn't work anymore.