National Treasure: Book of Secrets

They say that time heals all wounds. Well, apparently it heals mediocre movies as well.

In preparation for writing this review of the new film National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I revisited my review of the original film from 2004. I was surprised at how lukewarm my reaction was to that movie. Instead of having a fond opinion, I compared it to that year’s other Disney blockbuster (the original Pirates of the Caribbean) and summed it up as nothing more than a grown-up version of The Goonies.

I guess that three years, two DVD releases and big-budget sequel can give me a different perspective.

In retrospect, National Treasure was a fun film, and this sequel definitely lives up to its predecessor. Not often does Hollywood churn out a sequel that at least matches the original’s flavor, but with National Treasure: Book of Secrets, they got things to work.

Part of the reason for this was that they brought the whole gang back on this one. Not only do we have the Disney execs and uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but we also have the full cast reprising their roles and director John Turteltaub at the helm.

This time around, Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is trying to prove the innocence of his great grandfather in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In order to do this, he must track down clues found in a treasure map on a missing page of John Wilkes Booth’s diary. This goal sends him to France, to England and eventually on a trip to kidnap the President of the United States. The answers to the mystery are found in a rumored “book of secrets” known only to the President.

Over the past few years, Nicolas Cage has grown to be a screen icon bigger than himself, like Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. He rarely acts any more, but merely puts on the Nicolas Cage show (with his most recent great performance of this in the film Ghost Rider). While this would annoy me in any other film, I found it hilarious in the National Treasure sequel.

For a film like this, you can’t expect great acting. You can’t even expect good acting. All you can hope for is some decent acting that carries you through the popcorn plot and bubble-gum action. And while Jerry Bruckheimer is better known for his PG-13 action flicks, he gives this film his Midas touch for action without pandering to the fans of sex and violence. (And don’t get me wrong. I love some good sex and violence, but not in your family adventure film.)

Like the original movie, Justin Bartha steals most of the scenes he’s in, and it’s a shame he’s not getting the attention he deserves. Some day this guy will have a career that will dwarf his current status as the National Treasure comic relief and the retarded kid from Gigli.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a fun ride. It has all the action and twists you need to keep the grown-ups interested, and it fills things out with some strong action and adventure that will keep the kids happy as well. This film is utterly unbelievable, sometimes silly and totally predictable, but it’s loads of fun and an adventure ride for the whole family.

Grade: A-

The Upside: This is a fun flick the whole family can enjoy.

The Downside: Being a family flick, it is a bit sanitized.

On the Side: It’s really not that easy to kidnap the President, so don’t try this at home.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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