Confession time: I have never seen the first National Treasure movie. I did, however, watch the reality TV series Treasure Hunters, so I figure I was pretty well briefed. I hoped that Fogal family wouldn`t show up, 'cause that daughter was really annoying.
So the Husband Unit and I tromped out on a cold winter's night in Ottawa to enjoy a motion picture show. Don`t worry, I got my Nibs, although they were a snack size package that came with the Golden Compass combo the Husband Unit ordered.
This installment finds our hero Ben (Nicolas Cage), telling how another of his ancestors was intimately involved in U.S. history, this time with the Lincoln assassination. No, no. He didn't shoot honest Abe, but rather stopped the conspirators from finding a lost North American Native treasure that would have allowed the South to continue the war. But alas! Ed Harris has proof in the form of a missing page from John Wilkes Booth's diary that great-granddaddy was one of the conspirators. So Ben sets off to clear his ancestor`s name by finding the missing city of gold.
I know, it doesn't make much sense, but work with me here. It`s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, what do you want?
Joining Ben on his quest is trusty sidekick/comic relief Riley, ex-girlfriend Abigail, Ben's father and fellow treasure hunter. New addition is mom Emily, who is, conveniently, an expert in pre-Columbian languages and civilizations.
The quest leads the motley crew to Paris, London, Washington D.C. and Mount Rushmore. Strangely enough, all of those places showed up in Treasure Hunters too. Is art imitating life, which itself was accused of imitating art? I don`t know, but I didn`t see the younger Fogal anywhere, so I am counting my blessings.
Essentially National Treasure is an updated Indiana Jones movie, with way more Americana and patriotic chest thumping. Particularly bad in this respect is Ben's little speech to the President (played by Canadian Bruce Greenwood. HAHAHAHA!) about him being an honorable man in a position of honor.
Also highly annoying is watching Ben and company solve the clues. One particularly convoluted solution had me laughing as Husband Unit made comparisons to the 1966 Batman movie. "We were at sea. C is for Catwoman!"
Still there are some good parts. The car chase through London is reminiscent of French Connection and The Italian Job. The interplay between Ben's parents is also fun, although Helen Mirren acts rings around Jon Voigt.
Some of the plot devices are just plain fun, like the trip to Buckingham Palace to find a clue in the Queen's desk. Like all Bruckheimer films, it is full of creative action sequences. Although nothing really blows up. Distingrates, yes, but no earth shattering ka-booms.
The problem is it takes itself way too seriously. The Indiana Jones series knew what it was, a nod to the serials of the 30s, 40s and 50s. These were written for children and were meant to be a rollercoaster ride.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets has forgotten that. Its somber earnestness takes the wind out of the sails of the ship of fun. The movie requires its audience to suspend disbelief so much that most gave up partway into the first act.
Can anyone really believe that a book exists that not only holds all of the secrets of the US but is willingly passed between Presidents? I challenge you to name one President in the last 50 years who would have done that. Okay, Carter. But try and find me one more.
This fundamental flaw underscores the film, making it a weak story. The only reason to see this in the theatre is to get the benefit of big screen and big sound. If you possess a decent home theatre setup, wait for DVD or cable.