Sure, it starts with a crappy teenage actor who is way too pretty to grow up into the grizzled, equine Nic Cage, but after we get through all the business with Johnny Blaze selling his soul to the Deveeeel for a deal you KNOW has a terrible loop hole, “Ghost Rider” turns into the most glorious ham-flavored camp-fest in comic book adaptation history. In short, this movie is awesome. I fell in love with it at precisely the moment that Nic prepared to jump about 10 18-wheelers with Ozzy's “Crazy Train” blaring throughout the stadium. Why “Crazy Train”? Because, clearly, Johnny Blaze is craaaaaazy (train). But what the stadium full of blood-lusting rednecks doesn't know is that he CAN'T die. The Deveeel won't let him. One of these days, Peter “Mephistopheles” Fonda, is gonna call on his contractually obligated little dare devil to do some biness. Deveeel Biness. And knowing Satan, it's probably going to be when you're getting ready to reconcile with your estranged first love, who also happens to be a giant wino. And of course it's going to involve turning your head into a flaming skull. Isn't that just like Satan?
There are only about a million things to love about Nic Cage's performance: Teetotaler Blaze's relaxing martini glasses full of jelly beans (“Come on, man. You know alcohol gives me nightmares”). His love for shows about and starring monkeys (“Hey man, turn the monkey show back on”). His dressing room warm-ups sountracked by the Carpenters. Every ridiculous line is delivered with an unparalleled understanding of how to pull off the world's cheesiest dialog and still maintain a certain level of dignity. My companions and I haven't laughed so hard in a movie theatre in a very long time. But we weren't laughing AT Ghost Rider. We were laughing WITH Ghost Rider. I am now convinced that Cage has found his calling. Forget Oscar fodder about alcoholics. This is what he was born to do.
But Cage couldn't have done it alone. He was ably backed by Wes Bentley as Blackheart, the rebellious son of Satan, and Sam Elliott, who has the most impressive facial hair ever captured on celluloid. Peter Fonda phones it in somewhat. But a Peter Fonda phoning it in is still better than many actors who give it their all. (Isn't that right, Ben Afleck?)
To give you a better understanding of what you're in for, allow me to describe one of my favorite moments.
Johnny Blaze is the son and protege of Barton Blaze, who died in a tragic stunt accident which may or may not have been orchestrated by the Deveeeel. As Johnny prepares to jump his motorcycle over the spinning blades of several helicopters, his friend naturally asks him why the crazy with the certain death jumping over helicopters. We flash back to Barton Blaze saying how one day he'd reaaaaally like to jump over the spinning blades of ONE helicopter. Tragically, he never got the chance. Back in the present, a ruminative Johnny Blaze explains to his friend, in his Elvis-esque brogue, “My dad thought it'd be cool.” And then he jumps in his motorcycle!
I'm not saying “Ghost Rider” is the next “Citizen Kane”. But for a movie about a guy with a flaming skull for a head who fights evil, it's pretty incredible.
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