×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Wicker Tree

Neither remake nor sequel, Robin Hardy's companion piece to his legendary 1973 "Wicker Man" proves an altogether tamer piece of filmmaking, opting for humor rather than psychological horror.

With:
With: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Jacqueline Leonard, Christopher Lee.

Neither remake nor sequel, Robin Hardy’s companion piece to his legendary 1973 “Wicker Man” proves an altogether tamer piece of filmmaking, opting for humor rather than psychological horror. A couple of naive Texas born-agains figure as centerpieces this go-round, while the cult remains largely the same (minus, unfortunately, Christopher Lee). Figuring that the denouement is a foregone conclusion, Hardy offers few surprises, milking anticipation for the moment when his clueless characters finally deduce what the audience already knows. Opened Jan. 27, this rather likable journeyman pic seldom stumbles or soars, content to deliver midrange thrills and yuks.

Previously the trampy singer of “Trailer Trash Love,” Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) is now a gospel-belting missionary. She and her slow-drawling, ex-cardsharp cowboy b.f., Steve (Henry Garrett), set off to bring Jesus to the benighted pagans of Scotland, condescending smiles on their lips and purity-promising rings on their fingers.

Accepting the invitation of a rich nuclear-plant owner who compares himself to Mr. Burns of “The Simpsons” (Graham McTavish, disappointingly unthreatening despite his bald pate), the couple find themselves elected “Queen of the May” and “Laddie” by the expansive, welcoming local folk of a quaint Scottish village. This burg is eerily empty of children, a hidden legacy of unloosed nuclear energy, and only blood appeasement to the ancient goddess Sulis promises relief to the barren.

Helmer-scribe Hardy, drawing from his novel “Cowboys for Christ,” gleefully drops knowing satirical elements into the cultural confrontation. One of the pic’s most successful scenes finds the evangelicals and heathens at total if unsuspecting cross-purposes, raising their voices together in rousing choruses of “There’s Power in the Blood of the Lamb”; the hymn’s more sinister references to animal sacrifice are totally lost on Beth, who remains blissful in her assumption that she has religiously scored with the natives.

In the original “Wicker Man,” Edward Woodward’s uptight Calvinist policeman almost attained tragic status, the inherent fanaticism of his traditional religious beliefs almost equal to those of the cult followers. Any attack on the two dumb bunnies at the center of “Tree,” however, amounts to shooting born-agains in a barrel; their aggressively patronizing tolerance (“Maybe you’ve heard of Jesus Christ?”) itself reps an invitation to mayhem.

Yet Hardy does manage to create moments of near-pathos. Beth’s guilty nostalgia over her past slutty singing persona, and Steve’s light-fingered manipulation of a deck of cards to tell the story of Christ, evoke paths not taken and true hidden talents unnaturally diverted. But as the guileless Steve goes galloping across the Scottish countryside, pursued by bloodthirsty villagers, something has definitely been lost in translation.

The Wicker Tree

U.K.

Production: An Anchor Bay Films release of a British Lion Film, Tressock Films production. Produced by Peter Snell, Peter Watson-Wood. Executive producer, Alastair Gourlay. Directed, written by Robin Hardy, from his book "Cowboys for Christ."

Crew: Camera (color), Jan Pester; editors, Sean Barton, Ray Lau; music, John Scott; production designer, Laurel Wear; costume designer, David Blight; sound (Dolby Digital), Chris Campion; supervising sound editor, Peter Baldock; re-recording mixer, Richard Straker; casting, Kate Plantin. Reviewed at City Cinemas Village East, New York, Jan. 27, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Jacqueline Leonard, Christopher Lee.

More Film

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Marc Malkin The Big Ticket Podcast

    Variety, iHeartMedia Launch New Film Podcast 'The Big Ticket' With Marc Malkin

    Variety and iHeartMedia have announced the premiere of “The Big Ticket,” a new weekly film-focused podcast hosted by Marc Malkin, the magazine’s senior film awards and events & lifestyle editor. The podcast will feature sit-down interviews with Hollywood’s hottest stars and filmmakers talking movies, the business and more. New episodes will be released every Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content