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  National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren

Directed by: Jon Turtletaub

Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turtletaub

Written by: Marianne Selleck Wibberley, Comac Wibberley

Distributor: Buena Vista


     “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” seems to be the motto that the minds behind National Treasure: Book of Secrets live by for the film’s first ninety minutes. They do this to great success; as derivative as the story may seem of its predecessor, it admittedly plays as a perfectly entertaining action-adventure confection. The cast of characters is back in full-form and is solving yet another elaborate treasure hunt—devastating consequences to result if they fail—amidst lavishly-imagined visual-effects and impeccably-constructed action-sequences. Once they find their treasure (I hope I’m not spoiling anything for those who suspend Disbelief as it if were a religion), however, things begin to get problematic for the narrative. For over a half an hour, writers Cormac and Marianne Wibberley and director Jon Turtletaub bookend the picture by dumping protagonist Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) in situations of dire peril. Watching these, the viewer realizes that they frankly don’t care very much about Ben and, accordingly, no longer have a vested interest in the film’s outcome as a whole. Had National Treasure: Book of Secrets found a tidy resolution in its characters’ wild third-act discovery, it would have been just as rewarding as the original National Treasure. As it is, the movie feels far too bloated and downright long (it ends up clocking in at 124 minutes) to be deemed the preposterous entertainment that it wants to be.

     In this second installment of what promises to be a long-living franchise, Ben and crew engage in a treasure-hunt in order to clear the name of Ben’s great-grandfather, who has been implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by the mysterious Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris). After Ben delivers a lecture that lauds his great-grandfather as a historical hero, Mitch publicly presents Ben with a missing page of Lincoln-assassin John Wilkes Booth’s diary that pins the man as one of Booth’s co-conspirators. Of course, Ben doesn’t believe Mitch’s claim and sees the need to investigate it. With the help of now ex-girlfriend cryptologist Abigail Chase (the always-likable Diane Kruger), he discovers a hidden cipher on the page that Mitch has presented him. Is the page a legit find, or is it just the conniving Mitch’s attempt to lure Ben into a greater set-up? The answer involves the mythical Lost City of Gold, which Ben must find through information he acquires by sneaking into the Queen’s private quarters at Buckingham Palace, kidnapping the President of the United States, and running from both sides of the law as quickly as he possibly can.

     The bulk of National Treasure: Book of Secrets thrives. As previously mentioned, the first ninety minutes represent a well-done exercise in ridiculousness, simply entertaining by evoking the human desire to solve puzzles. The viewer is engaged by Ben, Abigail, and cohorts because they sympathize with the plight that said characters find themselves in: having to uncover clues and use them to accomplish a greater task. Not to mention, the film is expertly crafted along the way, with breathtaking chase-scenes that are incredibly involving. Given how captivating these can be, it’s no wonder that “the Wibberleys” (as they call themselves in the end-credits) and Turtletaub assumed that their chosen finale would be, too. But, no matter what the trio’s rationale for this was, it still represented a horrendous oversight on their part. In all of his calculated monotony, Ben just isn’t a likable enough human (or a disposable enough character) for the viewer to worry about his safety from death. Sure, the viewer can enjoy his presence as he leads the group’s treasure-hunt in the film, but there’s no reason for them to do so beyond this. If National Treasure: Book of Secrets really needed to be two hours long, then it could’ve put the more-vulnerable and more-empathetic Abigail in peril at the end. The truth of the matter, however, is that the movie only exists because of studio Buena Vista’s corporate desire to use it to rake in high box-office returns. Because of its very commercial nature, the film’s long running-length represents only an act of big-headedness and miscalculation on the part of its makers.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 12.23.2007

Screened on: 12.22.2007 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.


National Treasure: Book of Secrets is rated PG and runs 123 minutes.

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