National Treasure: Book of Secrets
reviewed by Andrew James
Ben Gates (Cage) is back at it again, this time it's not for money or popularity, it's to clear his family name when it is revealed that his great great grandfather may've been involved in the plot to kill President Lincoln. In order to do this, he must find the fabled Lost City of Gold. So basically look back at the synopsis of the first film and everything is repeated here: grab your witty side-kick, using charm and personality convince the girl to come along, get Dad's advice, watch out for the bad guy who also wants to find the treasure, visit location after location for historic clues and sprinkle in a car chase here and there for an "excitement" factor; all the while duping the inept FBI who seem to have every bit of information at their disposal except something to chase a car through city streets. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, Mom comes along for the ride on this one, inexplicably played by Oscar Winner Helen Mirren.
The one little twist in this go-around is the addition of the always reliable Bruce Greenwood as The President of the United States; whom Ben must "kidnap" to gain certain information from the President's book of secrets. The scenario itself isn't all that convincing or believable in the slightest. The bumbling secret service agents and FBI not withstanding, the entire production and method of getting the President where he needs to be and then get him alone is preposterous. What works is Greenwood's performance. He's had experience at playing The President before and it shows here. He's as captivating as ever... well as captivating as you can be in a motion picture such as this.
The whole story is really a cross between The DaVinci Code and Tomb Raider. And as implausible as it sounds, this movie is probably better than either of those if for no other reason that the strong cast and characters are far more interesting and the path to finding the treasure is a lot more fun; although just as ludicrous. As is the case with DaVinci, the conclusions drawn from particular riddles or clues and the speed with which they are solved had me scratching my head just a bit with confusion and skepticism. However, director Turtletaub is quick witted enough to not dwell on the how's and why's too long in lieu of a quick jaunt across the globe or a fast paced car chase sequence to keep those questions from lingering in the audience' head for too long.
The finale is nearly identical to the first film and here is where the Tomb Raider (the game or the movie, take your pick) reference comes into the simple equation. A darkly lit cavern with mysterious markings and lots of contraptions that could either be booby traps or simple puzzles (e.g. turn this wheel to make the water stop so we can see the floor, in which we have to put the key to open the large, stone door and so on and so on) is the locale and of course things are old and falling apart, so balancing acts and dangling from stalactite type of moments abound.
Having said all this, it is what it is. If you enjoyed the first go around, you might have some fun with the second. You might get a twinge of déjà vu, but focus on the fun and the enormous amount of disbelief suspension you'll have to muster may be possible. As a minor fan of the first effort, I was a little disappointed that instead of getting something new I simply got a rehash. But to be honest, with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, sometimes all we need is some mindless popcorn fun to relax with and forget about the traffic and airports and shopping and three feet of snow blocking the drive and all you have to deal with is the fact that according to Jon Turtletaub, apparently Lake Sylvan has been moved to the top of Mount Rushmore... ah yes, life is grand in the fantasy world of film and it's nice to know that a fearless adventurer like Ben Gates is always out there.
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Flixster Profile for National Treasure 2