Saturday, December 29, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Nicholas Cage returns in the inevitable sequel to 2004's National Treasure. Like its predecessor, this movie is a paint by numbers hybrid of Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code. That worked okay the first time around. This time, however, it fell flat. It lacked adventure and ingenuity found in the first one, and runs over two hours- something a simple action/adventure movie should never do. Or something a Nicholas Cage movie should never do.

Book of Secrets re-assembles almost the entire cast from the first one. In addition to Cage as treasure hunter Ben Gates, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, and Harvey Keitel all return. They are up to their old tricks, except this time Gates and his crew are setting our to prove the innocence of his ancestor in the Lincoln assassination. For some reason this requires him finding one of the biggest treasures in the history of civilization- again. This time an emaciated Ed Harris makes an appearance as Mitch Wilkinson, a rival treasure hunter. Unfortunately, the motivation for his actions in this movie is razor thin. Rounding out the cast is Helen Mirren as Gates' mother. Not exactly The Queen, but I'll forgive her cause she brought a little sparkle to the movie.

I thought this might be another holiday popcorn movie. It's always fun watching someone figure out puzzles and the dynamics between Gates and his recently estranged wife (Kruger) were charming at first. This quickly lost my interest, however. I'm not sure if it was when they broke into Buckingham Palace, or the Oval Office, or maybe when they kidnapped the president. It doesn't matter, each was more absurd than the last. This was only matched by the absurdity of the clues, and the characters solving them. Why would someone inscribe a clue on a statue after it was useful, and so cryptic that those it was intended for could not even figure it out? I don't know, but somehow Gates was able to decipher it in a matter of seconds. Or why would this all exonerate his ancestor?

Plot holes aside, there were some fun moments. Not since Indiana Jones: Last Crusade was a scene in a library so cool. And despite how unrealistic it was, one of the puzzles towards the end was really inventive. This is about what I would have expected from Jerry Bruckheimer and John Turtletaub. There was just too much length, with not nearly enough substance to make it worth while.


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