A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this comic book-based movie is aimed right at kids. (They won't care that the CGI effects aren't the best and the story is uneven.) Expect frequent references to the devil and some grisly Renaissance-style images of torture. There are motorcycle crashes (one ends in a father's death), flaming leaps, falls, and skids, which produce broken-looking bodies. The villain turns victims gray and veiny, and Ghost Rider himself becomes a burning skull. Weapons include knives, shotguns, and chains. Roxy shows cleavage, and she and Johnny kiss several times (once quite passionately). Characters drink and smoke cigarettes; language includes "s--t," "damn," "son of a bitch," and "hell."
What's the story?
When young motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the devil (Peter Fonda), he thinks he's doing the right thing -- that is, saving his father, Bart (Brett Cullen), from a horrific death by cancer. But Johnny soon learns that Mephistopheles is not to be trusted, and he eventually has to fulfill his contract and become the devil's bounty hunter. This occurs after Johnny grows up to be a fiercely lean Nicolas Cage. Johnny's still doing motorcycle stunts, drawing big crowds with horrific, Evel Knievel-style crashes, but he never dies. The turning point comes when kohl-eyed son-of-the-devil Blackheart (Wes Bentley), ascends to earth in order to track down a contract that will grant him access to a bunch of bad souls. The whys and wherefores are a little confusing (they're narrated mostly by the Caretaker, who's played by Sam Elliott), but basically this leads to Johnny's transformation into the Ghost Rider, complete with leather jacket, chains, and skull face a-blazing. Around the same time, Johnny's childhood love interest, Roxy (Eva Mendes), returns. Now a TV reporter, she arrives at one of Johnny's most outrageous stunts dressed in a white, not-quite-angelic dress. He's re-smitten, as is she, and they spend the rest of the movie trying to get back together but also not get back together, since if they do, the devil or Blackheart (or both) will surely target her.
Is it any good?
Like many comic book-derived movies, GHOST RIDER is corny, fiery, and outsized, but unfortunately it's not very entertaining. While the Caretaker makes lots of noise about the Ghost Rider's "legend," the movie's action and plotting are uninspired. Cage does some more Elvis impersonating, Mendes shows cleavage, and Elliott looks leathery, but none of these details helps create a sense of grand mythology. The Rider's gift/curse is his ability to assault his bad-souled victims with a Stare of Penance (he commands them to "Look into my eyes," like Dracula used to) and then make them suffer the pain of the innocents they wronged. But the visual delivery of this trick is feeble, a mostly blurry, vaguely fiery, utterly un-menacing montage of screaming, collapsing faces. This is Ghost Rider's big trick? It's hardly the stuff of legend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Johnny and his dad. How does Johnny's good intention lead to tragedy? Did Johnny have any other alternatives than working for the devil?
How does the movie differentiate between the monstrous Johnny and the monstrous Blackheart? Why is one "good" and one "bad"? Is it that easy to tell the difference between good guys and bad guys in real life?
Why are so many action/superhero movies based on comic books? What's the appeal?
- In theaters: February 16, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2007
- Cast: Eva Mendes, Nicolas Cage, Wes Bentley
- Director: Mark Steven Johnson
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: horror violence and disturbing images.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.