Tuesday, 5 February 2008

National Treasure: Book of Secrets - Review by Joseph Wren

Director: Jon Turtletaub
Screenwriters: Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley
Running Time: 124 mins
Certificate: PG
Released: 8 February

National Treasure, Disney’s shameless attempt to cash in on the conspiracy-mania born out of The DaVinci code, was a huge box office success, leaving critics scratching their heads as they often do when such silly movies win over the masses. Well, here we are again, with the inevitable sequel in what now can be considered one of the biggest franchises from the House of Mouse.

Directed once again by Jon “Cool Runnings” Turtletaub, Book of Secrets welcomes back Nicolas Cage as edgy academic Ben Gates. This time Gates faces his biggest challenge yet when sinister southerner Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) links Gates’ great-great-great grandfather with the assassination of President Lincoln. So, in order to clear his family’s name – stay with me here – Gates must travel to Paris, invade Buckingham Palace, kidnap the US President, crack codes and puzzles, often whilst being hunted by baddies and feds. Did I mention all this in order to clear his long-dead ancestor’s only recently-shamed name? And than there’s the matter of Helen Mirren showing up as Ben’s mum – shame on you Dame Helen! It’s all wildly implausible and hugely unnecessary, with characters that are not remotely likeable. Nicholas Cage shouts too much for no good reason, and the southern accent coming out of the mouth of Ed Harris is preposterous. Though Harris was a brilliant baddie in A History of Violence, he is a particularly appalling piece of this dreadful film.

It’s family-friendly fare that is of inferior quality to its ancestors – it lacks the thrill of Indiana Jones or the magic of The Goonies. Heck, it’s not even as interesting as The DaVinci code or as glossy as Tomb Raider. Thirty minutes too long, full of plot holes, dreadful acting, and unfunny jokes, the only crowd I might venture to recommend this to would be pre-teen archaeologists who are hooked on conspiracy theories. Of course I’m wrong, and in another few years we’ll have National Treasure: That Page Missing from The Book of Secrets. Spare me the horror.

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