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With Jim Sabatini

Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott and Donal Logue

Rated: PG-13  for horror violence and disturbing images
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 16, 2007 Released by: Columbia TriStar

It's easy to see why this cheesy comic-book flick was moved back from last summer to a mid-winter release.

Ghost Rider, directed by Mark Steven Johnson and starring Nicolas Cage as the titular "hero", isn't a guilty pleasure or a thrill ride of a less prominent Marvel Comics character.

Cage isn't guided that well as Johnny Blaze, an Evel Knievel-like cyclist who makes a bad Faustian deal with Mephistopheles, a boring Peter Fonda, who also appeared opposite Kurt Russell in Escape From L.A.

That pact, signed with a drop of blood, meant his dad Barton (Brett Cullen) would get healthy overnight from cancer, but things would turn dire for him before we see Cage who would sport a CGI-enhanced hardly hirsute torso.

For the devil, the extreme daredevil Johnny would be his bounty hunter to capture fleeing demons at night in the visage of a flaming skeleton. Here, in Johnson's origin-like tale, he is after Satan's offspring, the rebellious Blackheart (the once promising Wes Bentley). He has a devious quartet on his side in the form of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.

Cage has his kooky comic moments, especially with childhood sweetheart, now TV-3 reporter Roxanne (Eva Mendes, resembling a model like Cindy Crawford), when interviewed. Also, the actor of films like Wicker Man and World Trade Center has some fun with grizzled cowboy fellow gravedigger Caretaker (Sam Elliott, the narrator, too) and motorcycle crewman Mack (Donal Logue).

The humor becomes rather absurd, stilted as the story in a similar wild manner. Johnson does it all with a less omnious take than he did in the failed, yet somewhat more coherent Daredevil. Blaze has a liking for jelly beans out of a martini glass and is soothed by the sounds of Karen Carpenter.

But, seeing Cage in this part with the flaming skull should make fans of Superman happy he never played that iconic part in Bryan Singer's underwhelming (for some) adaptation. Yes, there are some moments of mythic, western panache, and zippy f/x, whether on the side of a building or underwater. Yet with nary any connection with Mendes (better in Hitch with Will Smith) or Fonda who could have been replaced by old "Easy Rider" pal Dennis Hopper, this comic movie is hardly a marvel, garish in its incendiary trail; gone from the memory of non-Rider afficianados in less than 60 seconds.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
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