National Treasure/National Treasure 2 - Book Of Secrets [Blu-ray]
Like a Hardy Boys mystery on steroids, National Treasure offers popcorn thrills and enough boyish charm to overcome its rampant silliness. Although it was roundly criticized as a poor man's rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Da Vinci Code, it's entertaining on its own ludicrous terms, and Nicolas Cage proves once again that one actor's infectious enthusiasm can compensate for a multitude of movie sins. The contrived plot involves Cage's present-day quest for the ancient treasure of the Knights Templar, kept secret through the ages by Freemasons past and present. Finding the treasure requires the theft of the Declaration of Independence (there are crucial treasure clues on the back, of course), so you can add "caper comedy" to this Jerry Bruckheimer production's multi-genre appeal. Nobody will ever accuse director Jon Turtletaub of artistic ambition, but you've got to admit he serves up an enjoyable dose of PG-rated entertainment, full of musty clues, skeletons, deep tunnels, and harmless adventure in the old-school tradition. It's a load of hokum, but it's fun hokum, and that makes all the difference. --Jeff Shannon
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
Less engrossing than its 2004 predecessor National Treasure, Jon Turteltaub’s busy sequel National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is nevertheless a colourful and witty adventure, another race against overwhelming odds for the answer to a historical riddle. Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), the treasure hunter who feverishly sought the whereabouts of a war chest hidden by America’s forefathers in the first film, is now charged with protecting family honour. When a rival (Ed Harris) offers alleged proof that Gates’ ancestor, Thomas Gates, was not a Civil War-era hero but a participant in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Ben and his father (Jon Voight) and crew (Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger) hopscotch through Paris, London, Washington DC, and South Dakota to gather evidence refuting the claim.
The film is most fun when the hunt, as in National Treasure, squeezes Ben into such impossible situations as examining twin desks in the Queen’s chambers in Buckingham Palace and the White House’s Oval Office, or kidnapping an American president (Bruce Greenwood) for a few minutes of frank talk. Helen Mirren, the previous year's Oscar winner for Best Actress, wisely joins the cast of a likely hit film as Ben’s archaeologist mother, long-estranged from Voight’s character but as feisty as the rest of the family. Returning director Turteltaub takes excellent advantage of his colorful backdrops in European capitals and the always-eerie Mount Rushmore, and oversees some wildly imaginative sets for this dramedy’s feverish third act in an audacious and completely unexpected, legendary setting. If National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets doesn’t feel quite as crisp and unique as its predecessor, it is still ingenious and wry enough to laugh a bit at itself. --Tom Keogh
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