The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘The Wicker Man’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. And this is Nic Cage Month! For this installment, we picked “The Wicker Man.”

The info:

The Movie: “The Wicker Man”

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski

Director: Neil LaBute

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl from a small island discovers there’s a larger mystery to solve among the island’s secretive, neo-pagan community.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 15 percent

Our take:

Froemming: Nicolas Cage Month continues, and this week we are tackling “The Wicker Man,” a remake of a cult classic that, frankly, nobody asked for.

Now, not since I watched “The Red Pill” (well, I made it about 30 minutes before shutting that nonsense off) have I seen a movie so angry at women. And let’s be honest, the only thing either of us knew about the film going in was the infamous BEES! scene, which we didn’t get to see because Brown somehow bought the one Blu-Ray copy on Earth that somehow glitched at that moment.

But we do get a lot of bonkers Cage moments, like when he just starts punching women in the face — on the mysterious island he finds himself on — out of the blue. He also yells a lot. He also wears a bear costume.

No, I am not high right now. This actually happens in “The Wicker Man.”

But before we get into this hot mess of a movie, Brown what are your first thoughts?

Brown: Coming into Nicolas Cage Month (or Cageapalooza, as I constantly refer to it), I thought this would be the most bonkers movie that we would watch. Not quite. That’ll be “Deadfall” next week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie is insane. It’s anti-feminist and anti-truck, as we’ll get into later. And for Nic Cage, it’s definitely an exercise in who-gives-a-(REDACTED). When he’s not being a lunatic, Cage just looks sleepy.

Well, Froemming, let’s take a trip to Summersisle.

Froemming: Well, first we get a very baffling beginning, where Edward Malus (Cage) is a highway patrolman who sees a stuffed animal on the road that some dumb kid threw out the window and pulls over the car with said dumb kid in it to return the damn thing.

Things go awry when a truck, out of the blue, just sneaks up and smashes into the car.

Brown: And it’s not like the truck blast its horn to try and prevent this accident. This damn truck just jumps on the side of the screen and attacks the car like it’s Jaws lunging at a hapless swimmer. It’s so bizarre. Not since “Duel” have I been more terrified of blood-thirsty semis.

Froemming: This truck drove off the set of “Maximum Overdrive” to continue its bloodlust.

Now, Cage tries to help the child, but the car just explodes for no damn reason.

No. Damn. Reason. Just BOOM! Like this was a Michael Bay flick where random things explode.

This intro doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the (REDACTED) film. Cage has some PTSD from it, where we comically see the little girl get plowed down by a truck in hallucinations he has. This film somehow made something that should be tragic incredibly funny.

Brown: Look, I get the PTSD angle as motivation for Malus to hunt down a child with Terminator-like determination. But, when you see a girl standing on the deck of a boat get OBLITERATED by a semi… yeah, you lost everyone with your insanity.

And when this truck gets hit and catches on fire, we see the little girl just stare at Malus. Also, the cops say the bodies weren’t found in the car. That car became a literal casket. That is just cops being lazy and just assuming the car just turned these bodies into ashes or something.

Now, let us never mention this again because Malus gets a note from his ex-fiance Willow (Kate Beahan). It just so happens that she has a missing child.

Malus, it’s time for redemption!

Froemming: I’m starting to think this movie would have been better if it starred Warwick Davis’ Willow.

Also, Malus got a ton of awards from the force for what? Standing by a truck as it rammed into another car and explodes? If that’s the case, everyone on this police force would have every award ever for attending a monster truck rally.

Now, Malus needs to get to the island his ex is on by means of a ferry to an island where he needs a pilot to fly him to Manson Island Summersisle. He goes through a lot to see his ex. Me, I wouldn’t cross a street to see any of mine.

Brown: They sell Summersisle as this super isolated place off the Washington coast, but how isolated can it be when it has a (REDACTED) ferry that runs to it?

Also, with Malus getting a letter from his ex apologizing for leaving him and needing help finding her daughter, it was apparent that Malus was the type of guy who has been ghosted many times in his life.

Now, in one of the most baffling moments in the movie, Malus walks ashore and talks to a group of women. As this happens, we see a couple guys walking up with a bloody burlap bag. The bag happens to be human sized.

Froemming: Yeah, it was pretty obvious it was the pilot who flew him there. He was not supposed to fly anyone there, ever. Summersisle is like a more brutal Stonecutters cult, and I assume they also made Steve Guttenberg a star.

Brown: Now, when you see a big, heavy bloody bag, as a cop, you would inquire about this, right? All Malus does is ask, “What’s in the bag, a shark or something?” They goad him into putting his hand in the bag and he can’t do it.

And then he moves on.

Edward Malus is the worst (REDACTED) detective in cinema history.

Froemming: Yup! Also, remember he had all those awards on his wall and we were told how great a cop he was in that stupid intro? That whole force needs to be evaluated.

Malus (I think, it’s been weeks since we watched this) next goes to the local tavern/motel where he needs a room and some good old fashioned mead, because this is a cult and they drink stuff from the Renaissance Festival.

Brown: I wrote in my notes that Summersisle is the darkest timeline version of Themyscira from “Wonder Woman.”

So, we get Chekov’s insect as Malus smashes a honeybee with his mead cup, to the horror of the innkeeper, Sister Beech (yep, actual name). Malus’ reasoning: He’s allergic to bees. So much so that he has, not an EpiPen, but a Bee-epi. That’s oddly specific.

Froemming: He must have the best health insurance to get such an oddly specific EpiPen. And his interaction with Beech sets the tone of Nicolas Cage asking questions, then immediately telling people to shut up and yelling at various volumes.

He is the worst (REDACTED) detective, ever. And probably the loudest.

Now, everyone on this island gives very obvious social cues that Malus is not welcome here. And because Nicolas Cage, he doesn’t pick up on any of that. He is looking for this child, Rowan, who everyone on the island claims they never heard of. His ex tells him the girl is real. I don’t know, I’d probably have told my ex here to (REDACTED) off and went back home. This is Crazyville.

Brown: And another thing that bugged me throughout this entire movie: Malus is a colossal prick who cannot show a lick of gratitude to ANYONE. You see many times in the movie where Malus can’t even thank anyone for their help (for the record, he’s not getting much help) and he acts completely indignant toward everyone on Summersisle. Not to jump ahead, but Malus deserves what he gets at the end of the movie.

The lesson here: You catch more flies with honey. Honey from the bees that sting you to near-death for being an unappreciative (REACTED).

Froemming: Malus also meets the leader of this cult, Sister Summersisle, whom he is really rude to and I don’t blame her for not wanting to help him in anyway. Look Malus, you are a guest on this island. You are out of your jurisdiction (by the way, why didn’t Willow just call the local PD or whatever that covers this island? Is it like the prison in “Face/Off” in that it is in international waters?). Be a little kinder to the local folks.

Brown: Sister Summersisle is there to dump exposition. Her ancestors were in Salem during the witch trials. The island is predominantly female. The main export is honey, which is a terrible thing to base your economy on when weather is unpredictable in the Pacific Northwest region.

Want another thing that bugs me? So, Malus is wandering around the island trying to find anyone who knows about Rowan. It leads him to a barn where he nearly falls to his death. It leads to a dock where he thinks he sees a dead girl and they do the worst double-fake I can remember. All the while, Malus is running around the woods, in summertime (I assume) in a suit. Dude shouldn’t die via religious symbolism. He should have died from dehydration via sweating through his wool jacket.

Froemming: Oh, he also randomly has a bike in the middle of the film, making him look like the worst elements of hipsterism.

Now, the film goes out of its way to point out how evil these women are for, you know, not wanting men around. The anti-feminism of this movie sort of shocked me, and given what has come to light in the past few months in Hollywood, I wasn’t totally surprised by this. I mean, Malus is always rude to these women and acts like they should bow to his demands for answers, whether they have any answers or not. They make him look like a hero later on for punching these women in the face for their alleged role in the disappearance of Rowan. It at times made my skin crawl. Good thing we get the payoff with the BEES! later on.

Brown: Roger Ailes would tell Malus to be a little nicer to these women.

So during an investigation, Malus finds a freshly-made grave in a churchyard. And like Bender from “Futurama,” Malus gets his grave-robbing kit and digs up the hole, only to find a burned doll along with finding Rowen’s sweater in said churchyard.

And when Malus starts questioning Willow about the doll… peak Cage, folks.

Then, we get a stupid scene at the school where… *sigh* the movie tries all too hard to be scary. First, you get children saying in unison “Phallic symbol, phallic symbol, phallic symbol.” When Malus finds out that Rowan’s name was crossed out in the class roster, he’s met by stone-cold silence from the kids and the teacher, Sister Rose. Malus looks into an empty desk and a crow (!!) flys out because they children wanted to see what would happen to the crow in the desk.

Froemming: Ah, yes. The message being: Women Are Crazy. Ugh.

Now, Malus starts yelling at various volumes at the teacher and her class. To the point where Sister Rose asks him to step outside. She explains to him how people on the island view death, much like in “1984” they become non-people. She also tells him Rowan burned to death. OK, Malus, just get off the island and contact the FBI, whom I am sure would have asked questions about that bloody bag earlier in the film.

But he doesn’t. He once again ventures around the island on his dumb bicycle looking for the missing child he was just told was BURNED TO DEATH.

Brown: But Froemming, Malus is HAUNTED by visions of trucks smoking every little girl. Semi trucks are his Rosebud.

We should mention that he has another reason to not escape this BLATANT DEATH TRAP: Willow tells Malus that Rowan is his daughter.

… Yes, Malus, trust the woman that ghosted you years and years ago that Rowan is yours. Not to mention, and I wrote this in my notes, that there is no way Malus ever procreated. He would see a naked woman, ask her a question and then go back to a completely different topic if I’m to assume his love-making is the same as his detective work.

Froemming: I brought this up when we were watching this. I believe the film says Willow is 24 or 25, and she left him 10 years ago. This cop was dating a minor and if Willow is being honest, he knocked up a minor.

Worst. Person. Ever. And very, very gross.

Brown: Everything comes to a head in the day of the fertility festival, where the director, again, fails to add anything scary to this movie. We see Malus running through Sister Summersisle’s home and opening doors to a man covered in bee stings, a woman wearing bees like she’s Candyman. Even kids playing a prank on Malus by falling out of a closet and acting like a dead child.

Oh, and this all happens after Malus spent a night trapped under a dock. No (REACTED) way Malus had the upper-body strength to keep himself above water for hours on end.

Suffice it to say, Malus is angry at the world. So he does what any man with power does: He gets into a ridiculous fight with a woman in a bar.

Froemming: A woman in a bar who has a bear costume. After he beats her up, he beats up another woman who earlier wanted to leave with him off the island.

Brown: OK, the first woman he hits is Sister Beech. And he doesn’t fight her so much as he COLD-COCKS her.

Froemming: We both are very desensitized people, but I believe there was an audible gasp from the both of us when just punches Sister Beech out of the blue. I also laughed because I am a terrible person.

Brown: And it’s not even the most insane punch thrown in the movie!

And like you mentioned, Malus gets into an extended fight with a woman who wanted to leave the island, Sister Honey. Now, Cage performs karate like Mac from “Always Sunny.” But, one kick launches Sister Honey into the wall of photos of previous harvests.

Which, we should mention here that Malus believes this festival is being built up to Rowan being burned alive as a sacrifice for a poor honey harvest the year before.

So what’s a cop/estranged father to do? Why, don a bear suit and join the wacky Summersisle parade!

The parade eventually leads to Rowan tied to a large tree. And that leads to the most surreal moment in any movie I’ve ever watched.

… I have to watch that again.

Froemming: Cage is punching women left and right, because, again, the moral of this film is that women are evil. Ugh.

But he grabs Rowan, still in most of his bear costume, and runs off from the crowd. Let me see that bear costume video again.

Nic Cage in a bear costume is the gift that keeps on giving.

Brown: This is where we, here at the JOE-DOWN, remind you that Nic Cage is an Academy Award-winning actor.

Malus and Rowan are trying to find a way off the island, and Malus is following the little girl’s lead… right back into the arms of the village and her loving mother.

It’s a ruse, it turns out! They brought Malus to the island of his own will (to save a little girl, mind you), which means he will be made a sacrifice to their pagan gods in hopes of restoring the honey harvest.

*Deep breath* THEN WHY THE (REDACTED) DIDN’T YOU JUST ABDUCT MALUS THE MOMENT HE GOT ON THE ISLAND?! WHY THE DECEPTION AND RAT RACE?!

This should have been a 20-minute movie: Dead car girl, note, fly to Summersisle, bear costume (because I demand it), bees, sacrifice, end.

Froemming: We learn that this was a 10-year-long con they put on him. We learn even his woman cop buddy was in on it.

This sort of elaborate ruse had to cost the island a ton of cash. For an island that relies on honey exports to survive, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This con would have bankrupted the island.

But hey, we are not finished yet. Malus gets caught and tortured with a hammer to the legs (Mafia style) and….BEES!

If you just want the BEES!, here you go!

Best moment: He screams about the bees in his eyes. There are no bees in his eyes.

But his suffering is not yet over. His torturers uses his bee EpiPen to save him, only to drag him up a hill and place him in a giant wooden statue.

This is the worst Burning Man Gathering I have ever seen.

Brown: So Malus meets his grisly demise to the chant of “the drone must die.”

And, in a scene we didn’t see because we had the alternate ending version, the cycle begins anew as Willow and Honey start to get chummy with a pair of guys played by James Franco and Jason Ritter. I’m sure those romances will end well.

And now, the most baffling moment in this movie, if you can believe that, the film fades to black and the text on screen says this movie is dedicated to Johnny Ramone, the guitarist for one of the most influential punk bands in history.

… What?

My theory: The movie was dedicated to Johnny Ramone because the director listened to “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and did just that before every take.

Froemming: It’s best not to wonder about this. It happened. End of story.

Hey, let’s hop over to the mystical island of recommendations and end this insanity!

Brown: Before we leave the review, let’s get one more BEAR PUNCH!

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Nope. Just watch the BEES! clip on YouTube. That’s the only thing worth while.

Brown: I think this is deserving of just one viewing just for the absurdity. Otherwise, watch the clips we put in this review and move on with your life. Even better, watch the original “Wicker Man” from the ‘70s.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: