The new film is based upon Hardy’s own 2006 novel, Cowboys for Christ, but here’s the deal: If you’ve seen the original Wicker, you know exactly where this new one leads, and without the benefit of having Edward Woodward as your guide.
In The Wicker Tree, it’s young Christian country starlet Beth Boothby (newcomer Brittania Nicol) who, with her purity-ring cowboy fiancé (Henry Garrett, Red Tails), accepts a two-year missionary position in Scotland. She’s even tailored her message to her audience: “Jesus was braver than Rob Roy!”
Not everyone in the pagan village is happy to host the Americans, but town employer/nuclear magnate Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish, Colombiana) and his wife (Jacqueline Leonard) put on game faces, and insult among themselves: “I bet she smells like a dairy.”
If only there were … oh, some kind of “May Day festival” planned for which they could trick the hicks into becoming, er, “participants.”
Hopes that Hardy may approach the material with a wicked sense of humor rise early with a glimpse of Beth’s Britney Spears-esque pop-tart past (via a video for “Trailer Trash Love”), but when you later see well-to-do Scots line-dancing at a posh party, those hopes have long been torpedoed. So go any chances that the filmmaker has beat the odds and captured lightning in a bottle twice. While competent, the movie doesn’t go anywhere approaching the unexpected; this Tree takes root, but never sprouts.
In the Blu-ray’s making-of featurette, Hardy calls the film “very horrifying.” He’s very generous, and very delusional. It offers some gorgeous scenery, a super-brief Christopher Lee cameo, a sex scene with a toy horse’s head, and nothing else of note. —Rod Lott