National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Posted on May 19, 2008 at 4:00 pm
The first movie ended with historian/treasure-hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) triumphant, with riches, a dream house, and a dream girl, historian/knockout (and conveniently named) Abigail Chase (“Troy’s” Helen Diane Kruger). He has pretty much lost all of that as this movie begins. Meanwhile, sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha) can’t get anyone to buy his book and has learned that “the tax on $5 million in income is $6 million) as his fancy car is towed away by the IRS. It’s time to break out the treasure maps and cypher-decoders.
And in the grand tradition of sequels, this time it’s personal. The recent discovery of a page torn from the diary of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln implicates Ben’s great-grandfather as a conspirator against the President. And of course there just happens to be a clue to a hidden city of gold on that page, too, so Ben is back on the hunt, with Riley, his father Patrick (John Voight), his mother Emily (Helen Mirren), his estranged girlfriend, and a rival treasure hunter with his own reputational issues (Ed Harris) to contend with along for the ride.
And I do mean ride. Not only does the treasure hunt have them flying to Paris, London, and South Dakota, but there are lots of chases along the way. Plus, there are some break-ins at Buckingham Palace and the Oval Office, a Huck and Tom Sawyer-ish exploration of a hidden passageway, and what may be the only time you’ll get to see a couple of 6-something Oscar winners swinging on a vine.
It’s all very silly and, even in silly movie terms, makes no sense. Ben Gates seems to be a big celebrity when it is convenient for the plot, yet he can make a fuss in a public place without anyone recognizing him. One whole plot segment fizzles out when the person who could have saved everyone a pile of misery finally decides to speak up, when there was no reason he should have waited except to add a layer of tension and a few more chase scenes. The law enforcement types are not just clueless about chasing down our heroes; they simply give up and stop following them every so often for no reason except that it is time for everyone to move on to the next iconic location. Once again, these are historians and experts in antiquities who are utterly cavalier about artifacts and casually willing to violate laws, treaties, and just plain courtesy when it comes to lies, vandalism, and theft.
What it does have going for it is a nice confidence and easy energy, a President (Bruce Greenwood) who is intelligent, honorable, and classy, three Oscar winners happily chewing every piece of scenery in sight, and a lot of good old-fashioned Hollywood slam-bang, including great action sequence with four characters trying to maintain the balance of a swaying platform. And a treasure hunt. You could do worse for a family outing.
Parents should know that this film has a lot of “action violence,” including guns, chases, explosions, peril, character killed, portrayal of Lincoln assassination, law-breaking and reckless behavior, and some potty humor.
Families who see this movie should talk about why it was so important to Ben to protect the reputation of his ancestors. Who does the treasure belong to?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the first in the series and The Adventures of Indiana Jones (more mature material).