National Treasure: Book of Secrets (8/10)

I don’t understand why a lot of critics and some of my friends (I’m lookin’ at you, Eli) bash this movie for being so full of illogical fallacies and inane hunts for clues. The point of these movies has always been to simply have a fun straightforward ride with little regard for logic or sense, and also to give us a fun and zany trip down the memory lane of our apparently conspiracy-minded forefathers. Who cares if the stuff makes sense? The acting is decent, the script is very often witty (moreso in this one), and it’s just so damn fun. In Book of Secrets, which I actually enjoyed better than the first one, Jon Turteltaub ratchets up the stakes and the gallows humor to give us a nice little end-of-the-year distraction.

Nicolas Cage is once again Benjamin Gates, the nation-renowned clue hunter who has now become a famous historian, due to his work in the previous movie in finding a treasure of untold wealth. Ah-ha! But little does he know, baddie Ed Harris as Mitch Wilkinson has just presented a piece of evidence that shows that Gates’s ancestors aren’t as much as he thought they were, in fact, they may have taken part in Lincoln’s assassination. Well, Ben can’t have that, can he, so with his friends Riley, his ex, but now actual girlfriend Abigail, and his father Patrick, he goes off to prove his ancestor’s innocence. Yes, that’s right, his long-dead ancestor. Eh, who cares?

The clue hunt is much more fun, though not as tense, this time around. Whereas in the first film our protagonists were being chased the entire time, here it’s mostly just a game of hopscotch, which capital cities around the world being the numbers. We go from DC, to France, to London, to New York, pretty much in the blink of an eye, all propelled by Cage motormouthing away in a voice that gets us to believe some rather unbelievable things, merely for the sake of the story. The first one’s clues stayed more within the boundaries of US soil, but here, Cage is free to roam everywhere, and with a better cast of characters this time around, the trip is that much more fun. The ending is also a hundred times better. Whereas the first one’s ending was boring, flat, over-extended, and unimaginative, this one manages to feature a bit of creative engineering on the part of the production department, and it works well, even if it is completely implausible. There are plot holes a plenty for whoever cares to look, but my guess is there won’t be many people in the audience a-lookin’. There’s even a plot hole that resides around the center of the story, but if you just calmly ignore it you’ll enjoy the rest of the ride.

Sean Bean in the first film absolutely bored me. Here he was, given the chance to ham it up as a classic Disney villain, and all he did was grumble and try to win an Academy Award with a performance that had no place in such an obviously silly movie. Ed Harris’s character is less solid than Bean’s, but he makes up for it with a performance that thankfully does plenty of screen-chewing. Justin Bartha as Riley O’Quinn, the man seemingly destined to live in Gates’s shadow, is the best improvement since the first, as his character is much more witty and charming and less of an annoying know-it-all nerd. He was my favorite part of the movie. Cage seems to have loosened up a bit too, and Jon Voight gets much more of a chance to prove how much his career has landed in a deep and dark pit. (His other two films this year were Bratz and Transformers.) But hey, who cares? It’s fun, right? And his chemistry with Helen Mirren (yes, the Helen Mirren) works well to provide some fanciful distraction from Cage’s and Kruger’s fairly awful chemistry. It’s unclear why exactly Mirren is here, but like I said, who really cares?

The reason Book of Secrets is better than the first one is because it has accepted that it will always be the poor man’s Indiana Jones, so it has fun with itself. Plays with conventions, improbability, inanity, and a whole mess of other stuff. Now it’s a lot more fun since a lot of that pesky logic has been done away with. People who hate these movies are the people who hate the High School Musical movies. They bash the films for some height that they never wished to achieve, and to me that’s unfair. This film will never make it onto my best of 2007 list; not even close, but it sure may get up there on most fun. Now all we gotta do is wait for National Treasure 3.

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2 Responses to “National Treasure: Book of Secrets (8/10)”

  1. I agree that movies such as this are meant to be fun. But it’s tough to enjoy a movie when the belief factor is missing.

  2. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about the movie and they said it is better than the first one…I guess so…Cage did a very good job in his National Treasure Movies…

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