Recently, I had the opportunity to see Ghost Rider for free, so I took it. I’m glad I did for two reasons: 1) it is entertaining for all of the wrong reasons, and 2) I would have hated to have spent money on it.
For those not in the know, Ghost Rider was a superhero comic published by Marvel Comics back in the 70s. The film begins by telling us that every generation has a “Ghost Rider” who functions as the devil’s bounty hunter. However, the old west Ghost Rider apparently stole a contract for 1000 souls (The contract of San Venganza) and disappeared with them. Then the story picks up with Johnny Blaze, a teenager who along with his dad does motorcycle stunts in a carnival. Dear old Dad develops cancer and Satan (here known as “Mephistopheles”), having possessed Peter Fonda (Mephistofonda…get it?), comes along and offers to cure Dad’s cancer in exchange for Johnny’s soul. Johnny signs the contract (in blood, no less) and the next morning Dad is fine. Unfortunately, Mephistofonda did not make Johnny’s dad a better stunt rider and Dad buys the farm in his next stunt. Needless to say, Johnny is both surprised and upset at getting hosed by the Evil One but Mephistofonda will not let him out of the deal. He warns Johnny that he will return someday to collect. Anyway, Johnny takes off on his bike, leaving behind his girlfriend Roxanne, who doesn’t have to sell her body to the night.
Next thing we know, its 20 or so years later and Johnny has suffered part of the curse by turning into Nicholas Cage. Johnny is now a world-famous stunt rider known for his death-defying leaps and apparent disregard for his own life. Blackheart, Mephistofonda’s equally demonic son, arrives on Earth in the form the pot-dealing kid from American Beauty. However, Blackheart isn’t too mellow as he goes about killing people looking for the contract of San Venganza. We know Blackheart is bad because he is pale and dresses like he is from New York City. For some unexplained reason, the contract of San Venganza will give the possessor enough power to be the new king of hell, and Evil ONe, Jr. wants to depose his dad. Mephistofonda decides it’s time for Johnny to pay up by stopping Blackheart. This is bad timing as Johnny has recently re-kindled his romance with Roxanne (now played by the hot but seriously lethargic Eva Mendes). Despite Johnny’s protests Mephistofonda insists, so Johnny’s motorcycle catches fire, his skins burns off (along with Cage’s no doubt expensive hair piece) and now Johnny is the Ghost Rider. What follows is a series of action set pieces powered by CGI, really lame acting, and some of the hokiest pseudo-Biblical dialogue to ever cross the silver screen. Also, Sam Elliot shows up and stretches himself by playing a grizzled, drawling, cowboy type known as Caretaker, who works in a cemetery and mentors Johnny. Some of the biggest howlers in the dialogue include Johnny saying of Mephistofonda, “He may have my soul, but he doesn’t have my spirit.” What? And then Caretaker explains that even though Johnny sold his soul, he did it for the right reason, so God is on his side. I am going to go out on a limb and call that bad theology. The movie violates its own rules and contradicts itself. At one point, Caretaker warns Johnny to stay in the cemetery because the demons can’t step on hallowed ground. About 20 minutes later, we see them in a Catholic church looking for the contract.
Cage plays Johnny with a credible southern accent, but every time he opened his mouth all I could think of was him playing “Tiny Elvis” on Saturday Night Live or H.I. in Raising Arizona. I kept waiting for him to say, “Look at those demons, they’re huge!” It would have really helped the movie if Holly Hunter had shown up and told him to get her a baby or John Goodman had popped up from the ground screaming, “!@%$&!, you never leave a man behind!”
Unfortunately, we get no such delights and have to settle for the so-bad-it’s-good spectacle. What is just bad is the closing music, which is a synth-heavy club remix of “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” And it is just as bowel-lubricating as it sounds.