Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “National Treasure.”
The Movie: “National Treasure”
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A historian races to find the legendary Templar Treasure before a team of mercenaries.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45 percent
Brown: I’m still fuming from last week.
The best way I can describe “Soul Man” is that it was Geneva Convention-levels of inhumane. Yeah, it was war crime bad.
So, I wanted a return to order. A return to normalcy. A return… to our Cage-iest.
*Reads Nic Cage steals the Declaration of Independence in “National Treasure”*
I had never seen “National Treasure” before this week, but I remember a lot of people who’d praise this movie. And that statement wasn’t followed by a “Well… Cage was (REDACTED) crazy,” so I figured this had to be a promising flick.
Plus, for a man whom we dedicated an entire month to, named his son Kal-El and once had bail posted by Dog the Bounty Hunter, the idea of Cage actually trying to steal the Declaration of Independence isn’t that far-fetched.
While I get my special Ben Franklin 3D glasses, give us your initial thoughts, Froemming.
Froemming: I caught the ending of this movie one Christmas a few years ago, and I didn’t recall much, which is odd for a Cage movie. So that is my relationship with this movie was at going in.
Look, this is a perfectly fine Indiana Jones-esque adventure flick that hammers us over the head with the secrecy of the Freemasons while never admitting they killed the Kennedys.
So my two big complaints are:
- The lack of conspiracy theories on Masons killing JFK on that November day in Dallas in 1963.
- We don’t get Cage doing what he does best: Be really (REDACTED) weird.
Look, while I frighten a child with tales of secret societies running the world from their underworld lizard lair, Brown why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: First, we open this movie with a sight that’s always welcome on the JOE-DOWN: Jerry Bruckheimer’s name.
We’re brought into a nice house where we see a child, Ben Gates, rummaging through a bunch of his grandfather’s things.
Froemming: Ahem, Benjamin Franklin Gates.
Brown: Yeah, I’m not acknowledging that.
And then, when his grandpa (who looks an awful lot like the cat burglar from “The Simpsons”) finds Ben, he starts filling Ben’s head with all sorts of tales about treasures and Templars and secret societies. Basically, Grandpa Gates is InfoWar’s Patient Zero.
Also, freemasons get brought up a lot, which makes me think of two things.
- Froemming has actually been harassed by freemasons more than a few times.
Froemming: Yes, this grandfather is filling his grandson’s head full of either nonsense (for sane people) or the groundwork for the New World Order that I learned from Ministry in the 1990s (you know, for Alex Jones, Kanye West and other crazy people).
Brown: This is the New World Order I grew up on:
Froemming: Of course it is.
Not only is this damage being done, we see that Ben’s father is Jon Voight, whose Lebaraon was bought by George Costanza.
Well, a John Voight, not this Jon Voight. Thought this one gave the world Angelina Jolie, which I am pretty sure is a 50/50 yay or nay depending on who you are.
We then travel into modern times, and find Ben in the arctic nowhere (I’m guessing about 10 miles out of Bemidji) with Sean Bean in search of treasure!
Spoiler alert! This movie has the audacity to not kill Sean Bean in this movie. I mean, come on!
Bean plays Ian Howe, though with all this snow, it would have been better if he was Ned Stark, because winter and whatnot. Insert your own damn “Game of Thrones” joke here.
Ian is a man with unlimited funds and the Richard Branson mullet that comes along with such wealth.
Brown: Or, as I put it in my notes, Ian looks like a bloated Bodhi from “Point Break.”
Froemming: Sonny Crockett from “Miami Vice” has seen better days.
Brown: So, they’re in hunt of the Templar Treasure, which is apparently worth billions upon billions of dollars. And the first clue they have is that the secret lies with Charlotte.
Which, of course, leads them to a sunken boat in the arctic called the Charlotte? OK, fine.
Now, they find this boat and somehow raise it through the ice and look inside the boat that somehow isn’t coated in ice or filled with snow. As someone who’s writing this review in a blizzard warning, I find this lack of attention to detail aggravating. Mostly because I’m not going outside and getting sunlight that’ll improve my mood.
Also, this boat is filled with a lot of gunpowder. Chekov’s gunpowder.
Eventually, this leads to finding what they were looking for (thanks to the captain, still dressed as a captain somehow) in a intricate smoking pipe.
Ben slices his thumb (which HAD to be a Cage acting choice) to decrypt the Templar message in the pipe.
Froemming: To follow this movie, the writers were hitting a pipe all right.
So Cage bleeds all over this ancient artifact, which “Pawn Stars” has told me from their guy who is an expert on such things, devalues the whole item and can only give Cage $20 for it.
Ben rolls the bloody thing on some parchment and we have another clue: The treasure isn’t here, but somewhere else. And that somewhere else is Washington D.C., and on the Declaration of Independence.
Ben is defeated. But Ian, like Frank Reynolds, has a guy. A guy who can steal this historic document!
What follows is a breakup of the old gang. The old treasure hunting gang that went to the arctic in search of riches only to find more Masonic nonsense. Ben doesn’t want to help commit multiple felonies in the stealing of a document that demanded freedom from tyranny that was written by slave holders, so an old-fashioned standoff is the result.
Brown: And it ends with gunpowder being set off and a scuttled ship that probably was worth a good deal of money is now kindling. This is a Bruckheimer movie so an early explosion was inevitable.
Now, here’s a moment, which thanks to previously-stated blizzard, had me mystified. With their ride stolen after Ian fled, Ben and his right-hand man Riley (played by Justin Bartha, aka Doug from “The Hangover”) are stranded in the arctic. Ben makes a comment about a town being nine miles away. And then the movie cuts to a completely new scene.
Nine miles in the arctic? Movie, I feel like that’s MUCH more treacherous than you just implied. My walk to the car is perilous enough and that’s 50 feet.
Froemming: Two weeks ago I walked to my gym which is five blocks away in -60 (with windchill) weather. I am 100 percent with you on this, Brown. No way that is a cakewalk.
Brown: So they arrive in D.C. and have to devise a way to prevent Ian from stealing (and destroying) the Declaration of Independence. And how will they do that? THEY’LL steal the Declaration of Independence!
Froemming: It’s the reasoning behind being greedy with a shared appetizer: I gotta get the last mozzie stick before they do.
Brown: There’s even a part where Ben starts reading parts of the Declaration of Independence, which makes me realize how much I want an audiobook of Nic Cage reading America’s most important documents.
Froemming: At times, this movie felt like a giant ad by the Washington D.C. Chamber of Commerce to visit the capitol.
So Ben and Riley go to the FBI, only to be laughed out because this is a post-9/11 America, we were worried about terrorist blowing (REDACTED) up, not Eurotrash plotting to steal our sacred texts.
So they go to the National Archives, where Ben uses a fake name because his family is the laughingstock of historian circles. And here we meet
Bridget von Hammersmark Dr. Abigail Chase, a George Washington enthusiast (maybe she digs men with wooden teeth) who is also in charge of the place.
Even she doesn’t buy into their crackpot story. The government cares more about the Declaration of Independence than it does its own citizens (Exhibit A: Flint, Mich.), no way it will be stolen.
Brown: Of course. With all the security around the Declaration, you’re going to be convinced by some dude with an obscenely high hairline that probably is all over 4chan forums talking about Obama being a Kenyan AND a reptilian?
So Ben and Riley go with the deception route, going so far as to break into camera feeds and making fake IDs. The problem I have with this is it’s all done rather quickly. Something as intricate as stealing the Declaration of Independence, you’d think we’d get an “Ocean’s 11”-style plotting scene. I get it, this movie is already two hours long. But, I like those scenes in thief movies, so chalk this complaint up to personal taste.
So, we got a gala going on the night of the heist and I was thrown off the whole time. Why? Because there’s a character that’s introduced, Dr. Herbert, who looks like Forum sports writer/renowned jerk Chris Murphy.
Froemming: Herbert is even a big doofus like Murphy. It was eerie.
So Ben uses a bunch of tricks, such as stealing champagne flutes to get Chase’s fingerprints to sneak into the area where the document is held. While he is doing this, we find Ian is also plotting to steal it. On the same (REDACTED) night.
Look, I get it adds suspense, but what are the (REDACTED) odds the National Archives is broken into on the same night by two different parties? If anything, this movie showed me that Homeland Security is doing a rotten job keeping things safe on the homeland.
Brown: It was really weird to see a lock-and-load scene in a Disney movie. But sure enough, we got it. And, we got a action scene where rounds are shot at the Declaration of Independence (which is surrounded by bulletproof glass). Now, Ben has the Declaration and takes it out of its casing and rolls it up. I do recall actually seeing the Declaration in D.C. in 2001 (pre-9/11) and them explicitly mentioning that the Declaration is in such delicate shape you couldn’t even take flash photography of it because it’d start to fade.
Disregarding my memories, Ben rolls it up, only for a gift shop worker to catch him and have to pay for the Declaration. I did enjoy that joke. Though, I’m curious why he didn’t get a bag and a receipt. That would have made his deception so much easier in the following scenes where Abigail sees Ben fleeing the Archives and when the FBI hunts them down later.
Froemming: Abigail follows him out, yelling his name. Now, if Ben were like me, he would ignore anyone calling his name when he leaves a public place. Because it is rude to bother someone who is obviously leaving and wants to be alone. But Ben is nicer than me (I’d have just driven off without a glance her way) and talks to her as the sirens begin going off and she realizes Nic Cage has stolen the Declaration of Independence (something like this, I don’t remember, I was too distracted by the Herbert/Murphy thing that this part is a haze).
Well, she steals it back and on her way back to the Archives, Ian just ups and kidnaps her in front of everyone.
I know D.C. has a lot of crime, but I was unaware it was this bad that high-speed chases with a woman dangling from the door of a van doesn’t cause any disturbance or the police to take interest.
Brown: When you have a crime as grievous as stealing the Declaration of Independence (for mapping purposes), you bring in just one man: Winston Wolfe FBI Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel). Sadusky seems like the kind of agent that’d call for cavity searches for everybody in the Archives like the FBI agent from “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”
They’re on the hunt for Ben after getting his credit card information from the gift shop. Ben, had you gotten a bag and receipt, you could have played it off like you bought a copy. But NOOOOooo.
Now that Ben, Riley and Abigail can’t go to Ben’s (I assume sad) apartment, they go to Dad’s house to try to decipher the Declaration.
Dad is… not pleased about this. Not because he’s now an accessory to grand theft, but because his son is still on a stupid treasure hunt that (apparently) also consumed his life.
I hope 9/11 truthers and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists get angry at their children someday for believing stupid (REDACTED) like they did. While I’m at it, (REDACTED) 9/11 truthers and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists.
Froemming: If every tragedy in America is a false flag in your eyes, then you are a special kind of asshole.
Now, Pops is not happy about any of this, but what troubled me was the fact he had warm pizza just lying out in what I assumed was almost midnight. Dude is old, he’d be in bed by now, not going to town on some Domino’s.
They need the secret letters of Silence Dogood, the name Ben Franklin used to write angry letters to the editor like Abe Simpson. But the old man donated them to a museum like a maniac.
So, they decide to find the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. How? Why, squirt some (REDACTED) lemon juice on it and heat it up with hairdryers because (REDACTED) history, they need treasure.
And what do they find? Numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Even Jon Voight is exhausted by all these stupid clues and riddles.
Brown: Now Froemming, how nuts was this whole plot driving you? You told me when you were watching this that you hate riddles. It’s to the point that Edward Nigma is Froemming’s most hated Batman antagonist.
It’s the one thing Froemming doesn’t have in common with Ron Swanson.
Froemming: I was livid. I hate, hate riddles. I also hate movies that take place underwater and I loath subtitles.
Brown: So on the back of the Declaration is a set of numbers they deduce is from the Silence Dogood letters, so they’re off to Philadelphia to visit the Franklin Institute. But instead of going in themselves and deciphering the code, they send a young black child in to do their dirty work.
Using a small black child as a patsy… I thought we were done with “Soul Man,” Froemming!
Froemming: It wasn’t C. Thomas Howell in blackface here, nobody would hire him at this point still because of that movie.
Now, the code points to the bell tower at Independence Hall, where the cracked Liberty Bell was sat.
And we all know how that crack happened.
History is amazing.
So they climb the tower (after deducing that because daylight savings wasn’t invented when this was all plotted, the hall would point toward where the next clue is at 2:30 in the afternoon. Which is some stupid (REDACTED). What if it were cloudy? Raining? The tower was torn down? How did the Masons know in 200-plus years any of this crap would still be around? This was so (REDACTED) stupid I actually yelled at my TV) to find out where the next clue to the treasure is.
Unfortunately for them, Ian is on their trail.
Brown: I asked what happens to that when it’s winter and the sun is in at a different angle in the sky. There’s way too many variables to be able to pull this off in 2004.
Brown: Now, what does this all lead to? (REDACTED) 3D glasses. All that work for something you could have gotten out of a Cracker Jack box.
And since you brought the bear punch up, this could be a good time to mention Cage’s performance. It’s not at all what we’ve come to know and love about Cage. The premise is WAY more insane than his performance.
Froemming: When it comes to Nic Cage movies, that should be illegal. He plays it straight here. Even charming at times. No freak outs, no awkward yelling at different pitches. Hell, the only time we almost get a glimpse of that is when he is constantly telling Abigale to shut up after her near-kidnap.
“National Treasure” didn’t utilize the best aspects of Hollywood’s own national treasure: Nicholas Cage’s insanity.
Brown: So now that there’s John Lennon glasses, they see some blacklight-looking (REDACTED) on the back of the Declaration, that leads them to New York City. Forget this being a D.C. commerce ad, this is for all of (REDACTED) New England.
However, there’s a couple hiccups along the way. First, Ben gets caught by the FBI, which could have used a Cage freakout but we don’t get to have nice things. Then, Abigail and Riley lose the Declaration to Ian and his hired goons.
I will admit, I laughed pretty hard when goons were chasing Abigail and Riley, you’re thinking “Oh, they’re gonna run through a market, aren’t they?” Sure enough, indoor fish market.
You may as well make this an Indiana Jones spinoff with Indy’s less attractive, enigmatic, conspiracy theory-believing cousin Ben. Hell, Riley’s already a sarcastic Short Round.
Froemming: This was not very exciting, so I will cut to the chase: Ian gets the Declaration of Independence and Ben is arrested for a bunch of felonies, not one though being he switched faces with John Travolta, which I would have preferred.
The Wolf now had Ben in custody, and Abigale and Short Round are now blackmailing Ian in a very convoluted game of cards I couldn’t care less about. They stage his escape by arranging a meetup on some ship (not the Seaward from “Arrested Development”) only for him to jump into the ocean. A fall that would probably have seriously injured him, but hey…the magic of Hollywood.
Brown: Not the ocean. The Hudson River. Perhaps the most disgusting body of water in America. How Ben didn’t emerge from the water like the Toxic Avenger is beyond me. And if that fall didn’t hurt Ben, surely the fall into the water would destroy 250-year-old glasses. Nope…
This leads to the Trinity Church, where EVEN MORE lenses reveal another message on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Turns out, they need to go under the church to Parkington Lane.
Froemming: The paper technology the founders of the country had is amazing. 3D holograms on paper was no problem, yet the common cold would kill thousands.
Brown: They can make imagery on paper akin to a fancy trading card but they couldn’t properly explain the right to bear arms in the Constitution. So, you know, the founding fathers were hit and miss.
Turns out, Parkington Lane is a grave that leads to a hidden passage. So, they have to go down this harrowing passage that NO PERSON should use. Papa Gates had the right idea: Don’t go down a wooden spiral staircase that is surely termite damaged.
Naturally, no one listens and everyone almost dies.
Froemming: Termites have attacked that staircase with the same gusto as Jon Voight when he bit Kramer.
Well, it is not safe, Ben and Abigail nearly fall to their deaths as Ian and his buddy just lower themselves on some platform, thus denying us a solid Sean Bean fall to his death scene like in “GoldenEye.”
*sigh* Anyway, the subterranean adventure continues until they find what was supposed to be the treasure room, but it is empty. Ben says the lantern is a clue that the next part of the journey is in Boston, because Paul Revere had a lantern or something.
I dunno, it was stupid.
Brown: I thought Paul Revere was a horsey with a quart of beer. The Beastie Boys lied to me!
Froemming: Look man, there is no sleep til’ Brooklyn here at the JOE-DOWN!
So Ian decides to ditch them in the tunnels as he searches the city that gave us Ben Affleck and he leaves.
Which was just a ruse for Ben to ditch the guy and find Curly’s Gold!
Brown: We forgot to mention we nearly saw Abigail’s #MeToo moment when Ben just lunges at her and plants a kiss on her without any consent whatsoever.
Now, they are in this empty room with no way out until Ben finds a button to ANOTHER empty room. It was at this point where I was angrily typing “Oh God, love is the treasure, isn’t it?”
Thankfully, I was wrong, because the pipe from the start of the movie opens another door to the Templar Treasure!
Froemming: There is enough treasure there to pay off the U.S. debt, but knowing Trump he will squander it on a wall that is symbolic-only, since tunnels and expired visas is how illegal immigrants are getting into the country.
Brown: Naw, man. The Templar Treasure, that’s Space Force funding!
Froemming: The man is full of incredibly stupid ideas!
Well, there is one problem: The Wolf. Ben and The Wolf have a heart-to-heart where we get more history of the Freemasons that I could have done without. Hell, The Wolf has a Masonic ring as he is describing why they hid their fortune, which made very little sense to me.
Froemming: Ben doesn’t want to go to jail, so he pulls a Tekashi 6ix9ine and snitches on Ian.
Ian is arrested outside some place in Boston, and this is how I imagine his fate:
And with that, the treasure is donated to a few museums, and our heroes get a 1 percent finder’s fee that Riley complains about. HE complains about 1 percent of what would probably be almost a trillion dollars.
Riley is a real sack of crap, folks.
Brown: I’m sure he just got a huge tax break. Meanwhile, I paid in. (REDACTED) you, Riley.
Then, Abigail and Ben, now apparently an item have a moment where she gives him a map and they run inside.
It’s a sex map. Ben needs an actual map to understand how sex works. I mean, sure. You don’t learn that on the 4chan forums.
Before the dark corners of the internet send me hate mail, let’s go to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I would. This was a fun movie. It’s not fun in the Nic Cage way we’ve all come to know and love but on the whole, it’s good.
Froemming: Sure. It is entertaining. It is face paced, so there really isn’t dull moment.