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December 22, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

I hesitated last night to post a mini-review of the movie, because such a thing is so subjective. Having had more time to think on it (and since I'm confined to the house owing to falling sleet and snow), I've decided that a spoiler-free review wouldn't hurt anyone and may help you, dear morons, select a better movie to see during the holiday break.

I've put it in the extended entry because even a non-spoiler review can make it easier for you to spot (and thereby be bothered by) this movie's many flaws. In fact, there's one possible spoiler right at the bottom of the review. I've marked it out, so those who don't want to read it can try and avoid it. Also, the comments are NOT a spoiler-free zone, so caveat lector.

Full disclosure: I loved National Treasure. I thought it was fun, witty, exciting at times, and it had a great villain and a great resolution. In fact, I watch it when it comes on TV because it's still fun.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets was fun, but it was not all that witty, you'll often figure out the clues before the characters do (and it doesn't help that the entire thing is given away in the trailers). It did have some exciting moments, but in the first of the two car chase scenes, one that was simply too long, I found myself thinking, "wait, did I get stuck in a Jason Bourne movie?" The bad-guy in this movie is too sinister, but not bad enough (more on this below). And the plot has more holes than my 1994 Ford Exploder's radiator. All that, plus a frustratingly nonsensical conclusion, made this a waste of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

The one good thing about the movie is the characters. Nicholas Cage plays the same know-it-all Ben Gates that was so likeable in the first one. Justin Bartha does the side-kick routine (and is, once again, my favorite character). Diane Kruger is delightful (and hot) as quick-thinking Abigail Chase. The only thing that bothered me about her is that Kruger's accent has noticeably changed from the first movie.

Nicholas Cage has been exclaiming about the fact that this time they got to have scenes in Europe (Paris and London). They did and they're short. The problem with these scenes is that the characters are puttering around while the audience knows that everything they do is being seen by the bad-guy, something that they never realize. When he shows up (precipitating the lengthy car chase I mentioned above) the characters never even think about how he knew they were there or how he knows everything they know. It is deeply unsatisfying to spend the first three-quarters of the movie watching these characters act as unwitting and incurious stooges of the bad-guy and have them never figure it out.

And while I'm thinking about him, as I said above, Ed Harris plays a sinister villain. But there is no reason to think that he's all that bad a guy, except that he carries a pearl-handled gun and threatens some people with it. Oh, and he uses Gates, Poole, and Chase to find an ancient lost treasure so that when the discovery is announced he can get his family's name in the history books. Something Gates, Poole, and Chase obligingly give him at the end of the film.

The music wasn't all that different from the first film, using a few of the same cues, especially the "Discovery" cue. It doesn't stand out, and that may be for the best, although I usually like Trevor Rabin's work.

The real problem with this film is the plot. In the words of the buddy I saw it with: "the plot blew chunks." It's not just that some parts require super-human suspension of disbelief. That's not all that unusual in a "family-friendly" film.

It's that the story doesn't make sense. Yes, Ben Gates' great-great-grand pappy is accused of being a Lincoln assassination conspirator. And, yes, they find an ancient hidden treasure. For reasons passing understanding, they assume that if the treasure is real, then Gates' ancestor must not have been a traitor. But there's no reason to think that at all. ***Possible spoiler***(Even after the villain confesses to making up the accusation, they still have the diary page with Gates' name on it; finding the treasure doesn't change that.)***Possible spoiler ended.***

In all, I wish I'd seen Sweeny Todd (I Am Legend was off the list because my buddy saw it last week).

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 05:05 PM

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