Nicolas Cage’s current calling card is, well, crazy. Literally.
The Oscar nominee cut his teeth on eccentric characters, from the nasally beau in “Peggy Sue Got Married” to “Raising Arizona.” ‘Nuff said about H.I. McDunnough and his electric shock ‘do.
Now, thanks partly to the cult success of Cage’s “Mandy,” audiences expect a very specific Nicolas Cage these days.
In short … how nutty will he get?
That leads us to “Color Out of Space.” The sci-fi thriller, based on an H.P. Lovecraft yarn, finds Cage trying to hold his family together after a meteor lands in their backyard. The films proves intermittently sharp, but at times could use more Cage 2.0.
Cage stars as Nathan Gardner, a rural dad leading a mostly normal family. Sure, his teen daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) fancies herself a Wiccan, but the Gardners hang together as a loving, nuclear unit.
A mysterious object crash lands on their property, shredding that faux Norman Rockwell vibe. Strange colors ooze up from the land around the site. Stranger emotions flicker in the faces of Nathan and his clan.
What’s the source of the disturbance? Is this family strong enough to survive what follows?
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“Color Out of Space” isn’t keen on answering conventional questions. Instead, it delights in showing this family under extreme duress. Body horror abounds, and Cage switches to an odd, stressed out accent at the most inopportune times. This isn’t cookie cutter sci-fi, of course, given the Lovecraft DNA. Still, there’s a certainty to the family’s plight that makes it less engaging as the third act approaches.
The film isn’t a major studio production, but the visuals suggest a larger, more expansive FX team at work. Nothing fancy, mind you, but the effects aren’t a distraction. Heck, they’re often the main reason to keep on watching.
Cage and co-star Joely Richardson, cast as a convincing husband and wife duo, show extreme parenting against a force unlike any other. Sure, your kids leave their socks on the stairs half the time, but that’s a picnic compared to what Nathan and co. endure.
“Color Out of Space” marks director Richard Stanley’s first major gig since getting removed from 1996’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau” remake. He keeps control of the spiraling story, ensuring the tone and performances don’t fly too close to the sun for comfort.
As for Cage, well you almost wish he separated himself from his fellow cast members. His character flashes that potential, but the Oscar winner keeps things grounded. That’s a smart play on paper, but “Space” wouldn’t suffer from certified scenery eating.
Maybe next time.
HiT or Miss: “Color Out of Space” offers some unique thrills, but the story doesn’t take full advantage of its star’s wild side.