I went into “Ghost Rider”
expecting to see bad CGI, stilted, lame dialog, bad acting, a bad script,
and a plot with more holes than Swiss cheese.
And that’s exactly what I got.
On the other hand, I also got to see some decent camp entertainment,
and didn’t leave the theater with the desire to immediately pound
nails into my head or gargle Drano.
Confused? Allow me to explain.
“Ghost Rider”, unlike previous February releases based on comic
books like “Daredevil” and “Constantine”, is not weighed down
by lofty expectations and a desire to be a “meaningful” movie.
It’s a popcorn flick with more camp than a boy scout jamboree and
more cheese than the state of Wisconsin. And due to the lowered
expectations, it feels better than what it really is.
Even with camp movies, there is
a danger of them being too campy, and then collapsing under their own
weight. “Snakes on a Plane” is the prime example of this.
Yes, it was fun watching the over-the-top antics of everyone at the
start. But it started out so quickly with the frantic, goofy tricks,
and then half way through the movie it really had nowhere else to go.
With “Ghost Rider”, you spend the first half of the movie not exactly
bored, but still wondering when they were going to get past the exposition
part of it and get on with the flaming skull. Once they got to
that point, you get so caught up in the action that you forget how bad
it really is.
And boy, does this movie take
its time in getting going. First we meet up with the teenaged
Johnny Blaze as he performs motorcycle stunts with his father at a Carny.
Johnny is in love with the too-cute-for-words Roxanne, but she is to
be sent away by her father because “Johnny isn’t good enough for
her”. Johnny plans to run away with her, but that same day he
discovers that his father will soon die of lung cancer. Out of
nowhere, the devil appears, looking a lot like Peter Fonda doing a Clint
Eastwood clenched jaw impersonation. He’ll cure dear old dad
if Johnny sells his soul to him. Johnny is tricked into agreeing,
but it turns out he is betrayed on a technicality. He rides past
the waiting Roxanne in a rain storm, not to be seen again, until...
Fifteen or so years later, where
Johnny’s looks have changed so much that he now has a frightening
resemblance to Nicolas Cage. He’s now the Evel Knievel of his
generation, jumping everything from semi trucks to helicopters in front
of packed stadiums. But unlike his jumpsuit wearing predecessor,
Johnny never seems to get a scratch when he wipes out. And he’s
wacky! How do we know that? Because he doesn’t drink alcohol,
but does pour red and yellow jellybeans into a martini glass to eat
them! And he listens to the Carpenters and watches videos of monkeys
in a downtown loft on the bad side of town that he doesn’t lock!
Isn’t that all really crazy?
And then everything changes.
Moments before he makes the big football stadium jump over the helicopters,
the reclusive Johnny, who never grants interviews, is approached by
none other than Roxanne...who is now a promising young reporter.
Smitten once again by her, he is convinced that he has been given a
second chance, and chases after her after his jump.
Let me now take a momentary tangent,
as this has been driving my nuts since I saw the movie, it is such a
glaring mistake. Johnny jumps a football field...from the inside
of one goal post to the other, and the idiots keep calling it “300
feet”. Not just once, but at least five times it is mentioned
that he’s jumping/had jumped 300 feet. I’m practically screaming
at the screen about the stupidity of the (a) writer, (b) editor, and
(c) the entire production company that doesn’t seem to have one single
person on staff that has ever watched a friggin’ football game.
But enough of that rampage.
Johnny convinces Roxanne (played by Eva Mendes and her cleavage, which
should demand separate credit as it gets so much screen time) to meet
him for dinner, but unfortunately, she’s stood up as that just
happens to be the evening that Mephistopheles comes collecting on
his debt. Johnny is to become the Ghost Rider, the Devil’s own
bounty hunter, collecting Souls For Satan (not quite Toys For Tots,
is it?). He turns into a flaming skeleton, and his chopper turns
into something out of Mattel’s Hot Wheels from Hell Collection (and
it even comes to him when he whistles...like a horse...isn’t that
cute?), and he’s off and flaming.
Satan has problems of his own
in the form of a brat kid named Blackheart, played by “where has he
been” Wes Bentley (the cute dope dealing kid next door from “American
Beauty”), who is after a hidden contract for 1,000 of the most rotten
souls imaginable. With his henchmen Earth, Wind, and Water (Johnny
is Fire, so there goes that possible reference), Blackheart is hot on
the trail of the long lost agreement, knowing the power he gains from
it will allow him to overthrow his father, and turn the Earth into one
big Goth Night.
The rest of the movie is one battle
or escape scene after another. It is saved by two things.
First is the appearance of Sam Elliot as “the Caretaker”, an old
man in an old grave yard where Johnny just happens to land at
daybreak following his first night as the Ghost Rider (he turns back
into human form at daybreak). The Caretaker seems to know all
about everything; the kind of quasi-narrator/mentor every superhero
movie needs. Elliot’s leathered face and craggily voice are
perfect for the part, even when he’s having to deliver such cringe
inducing lines as “a man who sells his soul for love has the power
to change the world.”
It’s hard to believe sometimes
that Nicolas Cage once won an Oscar for Best Actor, given the bad choices
he often makes regarding roles. This may not have been one of
his wisest choices either, but he gives something to the role that both
Ben Affleck in “Daredevil” and Keanu Reeves in “Constantine”
could not; a sense of self-deprecation. Affleck and Reeves’
reluctant heroes were so bogged down by melancholy, self-importance,
and self-righteousness that they were boring beyond belief. Cage
is able to sell Johnny as a noble hero because he presents him as such
an amiable goofball that he’s taking on the burden because that’s
what he should do, not what he must do.
Given the wealth of comic book
heroes that have still not been portrayed on screen, it’s a bit strange
that they would have chosen this obscure Marvel character, but maybe
that’s what is best for this kind of film. Lately, every superhero
shown in the movies is trying to out-angst the most neurotic one of
all: Batman. It’s all angst, all the time; from Peter Parker’s
sad-sack loser in “Spider-Man” to the constantly harassed mutants
of the X-Men. So it is a nice break to have a superhero movie
that has nothing to do with trying to make a character that others can
relate to. Just watch the silly flaming skeleton kick the demons’
collective asses and pass the popcorn.
It’s a stupid, stupid movie.
But you’ll have fun watching it on DVD.
My Rating: Kelly Holcomb
Otto Graham: Over 4 Footballs. HOF quality movie
Bernie Kosar: 4 Footballs. Excellent
Brian Sipe: 3 ½ Footballs. Very Good
Frank Ryan: 3 Footballs. Good, solid film.
Bill Nelsen: 2 ½ Footballs. OK. Worth seeing at the theater.
Kelly Holcomb: 2 Footballs. Disappointingly inconsistent but some bright
spots. Rent it on DVD.
Tim Couch: 1 ½ Footballs. Poor. Had potential, but lack of support
led to an overall stinker.
Jeff Garcia: 1 Football. Horrible. All hype; no performance.
Mike Phipps: ½ Football. “We gave away Paul Warfield for THIS?”
level of suck
Spergeon Wynn: No Footballs. UberSuckitude personified.
Charlie Frye: Incomplete.
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