Jon Turtletaub’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets reteams much of the cast and crew of the 2004’s National Treasure for virtually the same film; a grand-scale mediocrity that defies logic and plausibility but looks like it was a lot of fun to make.
And it’s fun to watch, too, to some degree; you can’t make any sense of it – and don’t even try to think about it, but you can certainly sit there in a kind of stupor and let the preposterous events and scenic locations and talented actors wash over you.
If you liked the original, then I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like this sequel. In fact, it’s a bit better. I think. Or maybe it’s just more recent.
Nicolas Cage returns as treasure hunter Benjamin Gates, whose good family name is threatened when Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) produces a page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary that identifies Gates’ great-grandfather as a co-conspirator to the Lincoln assassination.
So to clear the family name, Gates, father Patrick (Jon Voight), mother Emily (Helen Mirren), estranged wife Abigail (Diane Kruger) and sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) follow a series of clues that eventually lead them to the mythical Olmec City of Gold (whose ridiculous location I will not spoil).
I started wondering around the time they started looking for the city of gold: how is this going to clear the Gates’ family name? Well, don’t ask the filmmakers; as the film concluded, I was still left wondering.
But this is the kind of film where they wrote the key scenes first – a presidential kidnapping, thefts at Buckingham Palace and the Oval Office – and then strung them together in the least plausible scenarios imaginable (yes, an Easter Egg Hunt somehow gains them entry to the Oval Office).
If things don’t make any sense in the end, well… judging from box office receipts, this apparently isn’t a requirement of the target demographic. Still, it’s fun in the end, as the film turns in these ridiculous ideas with a wink-wink fervor.
They’re no prime examples of what any movie should strive to be, but the National Treasure films achieve something the wretched Da Vinci Code sorely missed out on: that old standby, escapist entertainment. Hitchcock could’ve worked wonders here.