Andy Bockelman: ‘National Treasure’ has plenty of action, but plot is fool’s gold
December 29, 2007
In the 2004 surprise hit adventure “National Treasure,” the unavoidable theft of the Declaration of Independence was the major focus. In the sequel, “Book of Secrets,” the stakes are raised, yet the outcome remains the same.
Father and son treasure hunters Patrick and Benjamin Gates (Jon Voight and Nicolas Cage) are devastated when they are presented with possible evidence that their ancestor Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch) was involved in the assassination of President Lincoln.
Ben is not about to allow his family name to be besmirched, so he enlists the help of old friend and hacker extraordinaire Riley Poole (Justin Bartha).
As the two of them sift through the limited evidence they have, they stumble across clues leading to something involving Thomas Gates that is even bigger than the fate of Honest Abe.
This leads to an international excursion involving some familiar faces as well as that of Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the whistle-blower against the Gates lineage who is very interested in what Ben and Riley are pursuing.
Cage’s ability to mug his way through rough material comes in handy in his second go-around as the last in a long line of fictional patriots. Happily, Voight is better used this time than in the original “National Treasure.”
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As for Bartha, his character may have some dorky sidekick charm, but his constant blend of techno-superiority and being two steps behind in nearly everything else gets old quick.
Diane Kruger is a tad exasperating as Ben’s ex Abigail Chase, who, in between moments of peril, manages to find time to tell Ben what went wrong in their relationship.
Helen Mirren pulls the same thing as Ben’s mother Emily, long divorced from Patrick and still not on friendly terms with him, yet somehow makes it work. Obviously, there can be no mistaking which of these actresses has been honored with an Oscar.
The first “National Treasure” was unexpectedly enjoyable because of its even combination of suspenseful action and lesser-known facts about American history.
Critically, there was no need for a sequel, but the box office said differently. Although there are a number of interesting historical tidbits in this follow-up, the title object is what overdoes it. Is it really necessary to delve into conspiracy-driven fodder such as the Apollo moon landing and Area 51?
That being said, the film is almost exactly on par with its forerunner regarding its high-quality action sequences as well as in the horrendous dialogue. Then again, which is more important in a movie of this type?
Although it may stand somewhere between “Indiana Jones” and “The Da Vinci Code” in terms of jet-setting adventure entertainment, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is at least worth a look as a curio of American history.