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National Treasure – Book of Secrets (A Movie Review)


Starring Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Alicia Coppola, Joel Gretsch, Bruce Greenwood and Randy Travis.

Screenplay by The Webberleys.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 124 minutes. Rated PG.

Interesting trivia fact: Before National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Nicolas Cage never did a film sequel.

Think about it. It's kind of shocking, really. In today's movie climate, how is it possible that he never before revisited a role?

And why National Treasure? It was certainly not his best film – though it was a very enjoyable genre-piece of the type he periodically does when slumming. It also was not his biggest film – though it was one of the bigger ones. But why not The Rock 2, or Con Air Again? Is there ever going to be another Ghost Rider?

More to the point, wouldn't you like to find out what happened to some of his more interesting characters? Obviously, you can't follow up Leaving Las Vegas, but I'd like to know what happened to the guy from Moonstruck or the surviving twin from Adaptation.

Still, if he has to return to a franchise, I guess National Treasure is as good a place as any to start. The original film – which honestly was a bit of a DaVinci Code rip-off that actually beat the movie of that novel to theaters by over a year – was still a fun piece of escapist fluff, with a clever storyline (as long as you didn't look at the plot holes too closely.) The fact that it turned out to be a significantly bigger hit than the movie of the novel it was patterned after was an interesting surprise.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is more of the same – fun, history-based puzzles, a little breaking and entering into major government facilities, car chases, gorgeous women and cities, a little romance, a little comic relief and huge treasures buried in long-forgotten booby-trapped catacombs.

Yet, like the first in the series, it is a worthy diversion. Not high art, just fun escapist entertainment.

Once again, Cage plays historian/adventurer Benjamin Franklin Gates, the Indiana Jones of American history. Again, he has to solve an elaborate (but not too elaborate) series of clues passed down over generations of forefathers.

The story has Gates' great-grandfather – who had previously been a respected Civil War-era code-breaker – suddenly accused of being a part of the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln. It all revolves around the missing pages in Lincoln's diary – pages that the ancestor had supposedly destroyed in a fire.

Desperate to clear their relative's good name, Gates and his father (Jon Voight) gather up their old co-horts from the first film – Justin Bartha as the comic-relief assistant and Diane Kruger as Gates' now-estranged girlfriend. They are able to get a hold of one of the missing pages and realize that it is actually a cipher that leads to a legendary Indian city of gold.

This starts a treasure hunt which leads from Paris to London to Washington to Mount Rushmore.

The movie never quite explains why finding the city of gold will exonerate Gates' great-grandfather – but in the end that really doesn't matter.

Beyond Cage as Gates, the film has a whole slew of Oscar-celebrated actors good-naturedly slumming through the lightweight action movie. Jon Voight returns as Gates' professor father. New additions include Helen Mirren as Gates' mother, Ed Harris as the mysterious man who sets the wheels in motion, Harvey Keitel as a way-too-friendly Federal Agent and Bruce Greenwood as the President.

While the film may not be exactly worthy of all the talent involved, all that talent makes National Treasure: Book of Secrets worthy of a viewing.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: December 29, 2007.


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