“Holy crap! I’m on fire!”
“Holy crap! I’m on fire!”

Five years ago, when the original, milquetoast Ghost Rider came out, I issued a somewhat fair review, asking Marvel to “get sicker with the sequel.”

Now we have the sequel and, not surprisingly, it doesn’t appear the folks at Marvel followed my “get sicker” suggestion. If the original was milquetoast, this one is more like Melba toast soaked in sour milk, tossed to the floor, and mushed by an angry little girl wearing Minnie Mouse shoes.

This is one wimpy, cheap looking, poor excuse for a movie.

Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze, a comic book character having a very hard time translating to the big screen. The first film was an origin story establishing the fact that Blaze sold his soul to the Devil.

This one picks up a few years down the road with Blaze not adjusting well to the life of a guy whose head occasionally explodes into flames. He’s hiding out in Eastern Europe, has let his hair grow out and, because he is played by Nicolas Cage, has crazy mood swings.

Because this movie involves Satan, it has to have some kid who is going to be sacrificed, right? That kid is Danny, played by Natalie Portman look-alike Fergus Riordan. He and his mom Nadya (Violante Placido) are running away from the Devil, played by Ciaran Hinds, replacing the original film’s dynamically charismatic Peter Fonda. The Devil wants to use Danny as a human vessel, because the Ciaran Hinds vessel presumably has disturbingly high cholesterol numbers and a bit of the gout.

There’s some dude named Moreau (Idris Elba) who looks to protect Danny from the Devil, and eventually calls upon Johnny Blaze for a little help. For some reason or another, Moreau seems to have the power to restore Blaze’s soul, so he makes a deal to return the soul if Blaze assists. The deal is made, and Cage goes into shrieking weirdo overdrive.

The first Ghost Rider had some production value behind it. While it looked good, it surrounded Cage with subpar actors (Eva Mendes, freaking Wes Bentley) and covered his head with one lousy hairpiece. At the very least, it did have something resembling a coherent story, and Cage had a reasonable level of control over his performance.

This time out, it’s as if directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor realized they had a dud on their hands and told Cage to go into psycho Bad Lieutenant mode to attract his diehard fans. This results in random scenes of Cage doing his patented cuckoo act, something that can be amusing on some levels but just odd and out of place when poorly directed. This time out, it’s definitely odd and out of place.

Many of the sets look like paper-mache. There is one slight improvement over the prior film: The flaming skull now has a charred, smoky appearance rather than the oddly clean, white skull from the first film. It’s a little creepier.

Blink and you’ll miss Christopher Lambert (Highlander’s Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!) as a priest dude with writing all over his face. Pretty boy Johnny Whitworth plays ruthless nasty guy Ray, hired by the Devil to find the kid and eventually transformed into one of the dumbest-looking movie monsters ever.

You have the option of seeing the film in 3-D, but I would suggest the option of not seeing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance at all. Nicolas Cage, in his seemingly eternal quest to play a comic book character, has gotten saddled with one that has nowhere to go but straight to hell on the big screen.

By “hell,” I mean bad quality, and not the actual Hell. Had the Ghost Rider ridden his fiery bike to Hell in this movie that would’ve been cool. Instead, he just loiters around some broke-assed paper-mache looking sets acting all Cage-kooky.

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