National Treasure: Book of Secrets

NationalTreasureBookofSecrets

“Maybe one day I’ll wear this (tuxedo) to a party I was actually invited to.”

Nicolas Cage teams up with popular producer Jerry Bruckheimer for the fifth time in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. This adventurous film brings history to life with entertaining scenarios that sustain a fast pace. Overall, this entertaining movie manages to satisfy with some clever problem solving and likeable characters.

Oscar® winner Cage plays returns as Ben Gates, a good-hearted treasure seeker motivated by personal vindication instead of riches. You would think the government would just hire the amazing Ben to solve all the nation’s secrets by now, but the standard. Again, a special historical document holds the key to information that Ben will reach great lengths to achieve.

Ben’s honorable motives are backed by unrelenting intelligence, which mostly flows well through the story, but seems forced at times. Ben’s adventures also involve his family, played by Oscar® winners Jon Voight (father) and Helen Mirren (mother).

Voight plays the supportive yet weary father Patrick while Mirren provides more character development into the family as the studious Emily. Their love relationship, based on “excitement, adrenaline and tequila” doesn’t really click, but they do have a few sweet scenes together.

Cage gets the best role of all the Oscar® winning actors, at least in this film. Another actor who should have an Oscar®, Ed Harris (Apollo 13), plays Mitch Wilkinson, a mostly forgettable antagonist who initially seeks to discredit the Gates family name. He matches Ben’s clever exploits with seemingly endless resources and quick transportation capabilities, played out well in a memorable London car chase.

Justin Bartha again provides the comic relief plays Ben’s wise cracking partner in “crime” Riley Poole. He gets plenty of great one liners, though other comedy segments are forced and predictable. Actress Diane Kruger (Troy) plays Ben’s love interest Abigail Chase. She joins the adventure as their relationship develops.

Bruce Greenwood (I Robot, Star Trek) also has a reprisal role-playing the President, which he also did in the Kevin Costner film Thirteen Days. Ty Burrell (Modern Family television series) plays Connor, a White House curator who also conveniently factors into the story. Harvey Keitel reprises his role as government agent Sadusky and country singer Randy Travis makes a cameo appearance.

The Wibberley screenwriting team of Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (I Spy, Bad Boys 2) again provide the plot work. This team does a decent job keeping their winning entertainment formula while delivering fun dialogue like “If I answer a question quickly, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”

If you’re thinking throughout the film (which you probably can’t help but do), then you won’t be overly stressed or surprised. Audience interest swells with interesting information involving the KGC, the Statue of Liberty and the origin of the phrase “my name is mud” plus puzzling phrases like “cloudless rain.”

The story makes you want to crack open a history reference book as soon as you get home or at the very least start some interesting conversations. Story contributions from Bruckheimer’s go to screenwriting team – Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (Pirates of the Caribbean) – inject some nice comedy and sharp dialogue. Unfortunately, previews take away one of the best jokes.

Disney mainstay Jon Turtletaub (Phenomonon, Cool Runnings) again takes the reigns as director/producer. He and his crew impress with several shots including a graphic that transitions locations from London to Washington DC. Repeating familiar elements seen in other films like Jurassic Park and The Mummy Returns works, but can be annoying.

The likeable characters make up for the hokey plot points through their dialogue. You never feel that the characters are physically up for the challenges, especially against seemingly experienced chasers like Ian’s goons, but moments like the verbal exchange between Ben and Abigail as they change clothes really add genuine charm and do not seem staged, which holds audience interest in the story.

The action scenarios are fairly tame throughout a long 135 minute run time, but the romance, humor and drama offset some of the weaknesses. Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG for action violence and a few scares. A formulaic, yet enjoyable, and surprisingly educational movie especially for younger audiences.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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