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: 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


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

  • Lion King merchandise

    'The Lion King': Disney Targets Nostalgic Adults With High-End Merchandise

    Does Nala wear lipstick? Probably not, but “Lion King” fans can celebrate the release of the live-action remake with a new line of makeup that’s part of a whole pride of other items themed to Disney’s live action redo. For about $40, the Can’t Wait to Be Queen eyeshadow palette by Luminess Cosmetics includes shades [...]

  • 'Cats' Movie Trailer: Watch Taylor Swift,

    'Cats' Trailer Drops: Watch Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson in Movie Musical

    Universal has released the first trailer for its film adaptation of the Broadway play, “Cats,” starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and James Corden. Based on the book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, the musical follows the Jellicle cats, a family of felines who go before the group’s leader Old Deuteronomy to [...]

  • Yvonne StrahovskiCritics' Choice Awards, Arrivals, Los

    'Handmaid's Tale's' Yvonne Strahovski Joins Chris Pratt in 'Ghost Draft' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski is in negotiations to join Chris Pratt in Skydance’s sci-fi pic “Ghost Draft,” sources tell Variety. “Lego Batman’s” Chris McKay is attached to direct. “Ghost Draft,” written by Zach Dean, is about a man drafted to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity relies on his [...]

  • Dreamville Dreamers doc

    J. Cole's Watchful Eye, All-Nighters and Weed: Inside Dreamville's 'Revenge' Doc

    Having the No. 1 project in the country is old hat for J. Cole, but the instant success of Dreamville’s highly-anticipated “Revenge of the Dreamers III” collection, which features collaborations with more than 25 artists, writers and producers (among them: Cozz, Omen, Bas, J.I.D., EarthGang and Ari Lennox), took many by surprise. The first installment [...]

  • The True Adventures of Wolfboy

    Karlovy Vary Film Review: 'The True Adventures of Wolfboy'

    Most teenage boys would kill for a few whiskers, but not Paul. At 13, he already has a full face of hair, and his peers treat him like a freak for it. So, too, does Martin Krejčí’s “The True Adventures of Wolfboy,” although the movie argues that perhaps being a freak isn’t such a bad [...]

  • 'Top Gun: Maverick' Trailer: Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise Drops First Trailer for 'Top Gun: Maverick' at Comic-Con (Watch)

    Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday to hype the forthcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” and receive mass adoration from Hall H. “I felt it was my responsibility to deliver for you,” Cruise told the crowd, tugging local heartstrings by reminiscing on the original “Top Gun” shoot in Downtown San Diego. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content