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 Turteltaubs 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 Americas 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 Queens chambers in Buckingham Palace and the White Houses 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 Bens archaeologist mother, long-estranged from Voights 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 dramedys feverish third act in an audacious and completely unexpected, legendary setting. If National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets doesnt feel quite as crisp and unique as its predecessor, it is still ingenious and wry enough to laugh a bit at itself. --Tom Keogh
American history gets a cool make-over in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced comedic action thrillers National Treasure and its sequel National Treasure: Book Of Secrets. Nicholas Cage plays Ben Gates, the descendant of an early American patriot who has left him information relating to a vast treasure, hidden during the Revolutionary War by the Freemasons. A clue at the north pole sets things in motion, and Ben must use his formidable cryptography skills to decipher puzzles hidden in the most unlikely places--one appears on the dollar bill, and another is on the back of the U.S. constitution. Ben's unscrupulous former partner (Sean Bean) and his gang of thugs are also after the treasure for selfish, evil purposes. A plot to steal the constitution sets off a 13-colony-wide chase with all the trimmings: cops going after the wrong man, the rescue of a cute female cryptographer (Diane Kruger) who tags along for the ride, and Jon Voight answering the door in the middle of the night as Ben's disapproving father.
In Book Of Secrets Nicholas Cage and his team return and embark on a new adventure to solve a mystery that stretches from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the contemporary streets of Washington, DC. When Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) produces a page from the diary of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth allegedly linking Ben's great-great grandfather to the plot, Ben and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), set out on a path to clear their family's name. Ben also believes that the diary page contains hints to the whereabouts of a treasure map leading to an ancient city made of gold, and soon the hunt is on. Tech expert Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Ben's now ex-girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) join the Gates in their quest, which takes them from Washington, DC, to Paris, London and the Black Hills of South Dakota.
>High-speed editing and clever scripts make these films an enjoyable history lesson, with Cage's character masquerading as his own versions of Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, and an over-caffeinated Washington D.C. tour guide. He and Kruger demonstrate some fine romantic chemistry, and Justin Bartha gets off some legitimately funny lines as Ben's long-suffering sidekick. Helen Mirren also fits the bill as Ben's mother and Patrick's estranged ex-wife, Emily, a scholar and historian in her own right.
National Treasure 1: English, English for Hearing impaired, French / Italian / Spanish / Swedish / Norwegian / Danish / Finnish / Icelandic / Dutch
National Treasure 2: English, English for Hearing impaired, French / Thai / Traditional Chinese for English / Bahasa / Malay / Korean / Spanish / Portuguese