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GHOST RIDER REVIEW

Nicolas Cage has a scene where he laughs like crazy and turns into Ghost Rider that is so much fun. It's like that scene in Face Off when he's in prison and just causes a fight while he laughs like crazy, only this time his face melts off and turns into a flaming skull. I was surprised how much I liked this movie, actually. But you really shouldn't be surprised that a fiery skeleton guy riding around on a flaming skull cycle with a red hot chain whip is cool. This is a movie for your inner 10 year old. It might have been a good movie for your inner 14 year old, but Eva Mendes only shows off her cleavage so what can you do?

This movie works well because the character isn't very sacred to many people in the first place. From his first appearance in the '70s, he was always more special effect than character. A biker tattoo come to life. And it's good that they waited so long to actually make a live action version of Ghost Rider because the special effects in this film are gorgeous. Exciting and gorgeous. They're the kind of exciting that make you speed home really really fast after you see the movie while Led Zeppelin music plays really loud, and almost make you forget you're driving a Subaru Legacy Wagon with a giant clamshell luggage rack on the top.

Nicolas Cage was able to bring a ton of quirkiness to the role. The kind of quirkiness that Bruce Campbell used to make Ash so wonderful in the Evil Dead movies. He drinks martini glasses full of red and yellow jelly beans (because alcohol gives him nightmares). He relaxes by watching videotapes of chimpanzees doing Kung Fu. And gets psyched up for his motorcycle jumps by listening to The Carpenters. When his partner, Mac, walks in and asks if he's ready while the song is winding down, Nicolas scolds him, "Don't step on Karen!"

I thought I wasn't going to like Cage as Johnny Blaze because the commercials show him doing stupid one liners and his wig looks like something Ben Affleck got rid of at a yard sale. But it's the charming Cage of Raising Arizona and Con Air that we have here. He takes the role seriously enough so that it's not a joke, but he knows the subject matter is basically thrill ride with a story thrown in, so he has a lot of fun with it.

And sweet Lord, when he turns into Ghost Rider and does his thing, it's pretty damn kickass. You may have seen the trailer where he rides up the side of a building, but that's not even a tenth of the cool things he does. I hope you can handle watching him swing a helicopter around like some sort of helicopter on a chain and throw it away. And how about racing his cycle STRAIGHT DOWN the skyscraper back to the ground? Indeed, it's pretty awesome. Even the sounds his bike makes while it roars down the street is pretty kickass.

Sam Elliot is pretty good as the obligatory long gray haired mentor figure that is required by law in movies like this. His voice is so deep and charming, it doesn't even matter what he's saying because it sounds so cool.

There are certainly some weak spots in the movie. Wes Bentley plays Blackheart, the main villian who's supposed to be the son of Satan, but he just seems like an angry Hot Topic employee. When you feel like you can personally kick the villain's ass, he loses a lot of menace factor. His henchman, that have the powers of the elements, just seem like random bad guys from an old Chips episode.

Peter Fonda is also questionable as Satan (or Mephistopheles, if you must). He gets the job done, but he's not very imposing and looks like he really needs that cane he walks around with. Though I suppose his past in Easy Rider makes it fun for trivia purposes.

Also, I don't buy the relationship and/or chemistry with Eva Mendes in this movie, either. And did they really have to make her a REPORTER? Is there some law that requires superhero girlfriends to be journalists? I would have cast someone a little wilder, like Gina Gershon in the role. Eva's nice to look at, but every moment she's on screen is just another minute you'd rather see Ghost Rider leaving a flaming trail down a Texas highway, turning Iguanas into skeletons on the roadside.

Anyway...if you just want to have some fun, go enjoy this movie. This isn't one of those movies where you have to turn off your brain and settle for less. It's a good solid comic book turned into a movie. A great theater experience, and something that'll really let you show off your home theater system once it comes out in High Def DVD.

I normally don't like to assign ratings, but if I had to I'd rate it 6.5 out of 10 stars, or a good solid B. If we were using the PASS/FAIL scale, that would probably be too broad, but I'd go for a PASS. On the Myers Briggs scale, I'd probably have to go INMP, and if I applied a MySpace "What Care Bear Are You?" quiz against it, it'd likely be Trueheart.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

 

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