Jon Turteltaub | 2007 | 124 min | USA
I knew when I rented the first National Treasure that it wasn’t going to really be a good film. I figured it’d be a decent, America-centric Indiana Jones knockoff, crossed with the less weird parts of that Tom Robbins book where he talks about the pyramid in the dollar bill a lot. Essentially, I like conspiracy theory adventure / mystery films. And I have to be honest, on that front, National Treasure delivered a satisfying rental experience. Considerably more satisfying than The DaVinci Code, if that gives you any sense of my personal rating system.
However, by no means did I consider it stellar enough to warrant a sequel, so when I saw a preview for National Treasure: Book of Secrets a few months ago, I was genuinely puzzled. I went to see it mostly because I wanted to find out how they could concoct yet another convoluted plot about secret signs that the Masons have embedded all around us without it seeming a bit hackneyed. The answer is, they didn't really.
In a way, I wasn’t disappointed. In another way, this movie was crap. The plot centres around the Gates’ boys (Nicholas Cage and John Voight) transcontinental crusade to clear their ancestor’s good name, after a handsomely aging Ed Harris comes forth with a document that implicates him in Lincoln’s assassination. There are a few pretty funny moments, at least one decent car chase and some solid fake history.
Unfortunately, large chunks of this film feel like they've been copied straight out of the first one, only none of the excitement of putting the puzzle together is really there, because “uncovering the secrets hidden in the elaborate web our founding fathers wove around us” is actually a bit of a one trick pony, as far as film premises go.
By far the strangest part of it all is that the film left itself wide open for a third installment by introducing a new mystery in the third act, then clumsily reminding us of it again in the film’s final scenes. I kind of hope they rush National Treasure: Curse of the Monkey’s Paw, or whatever, so that it comes out in time to compete with Indiana Jones and the Kindgom of the Crystal Skull in 2008. Excellent double bill of stupid ideas.