National Treasure: Book of Secrets is an unimaginative rehash of the first National Treasure, substituting Ed Harris in for Sean Bean and the President for the Declaration of Independence. Then throw in Helen Mirren for 62-year-old sex appeal… However, the writers cheated a little, taking the goose chase overseas for a clue rather than keeping it an American adventure. All so they can discover the real truth about the assassination of President Lincoln. He faked his own death?
Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) sets out on a mission to clear his family name and discover a historic treasure. He’s accompanied by his tech geek/smarmy sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha), who provides all the comic relief for the wooden, expressionless Cage. Though, I admit, there was some believable chemistry between Gates and Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who gets roped along for the adventure.
Gates and friends are in competition with a team of rival treasure hunters, made up of bruisers and “yes men” reacting to shouted instructions from their sinister leader. Somehow they continue to arrive at the right place at the right time, despite missing the various clues discovered by Gates.
Meanwhile, the hunters are being hunted by FBI agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) after they manage to pull off a ridiculous caper and fool the exaggeratedly inept security.
But Gate’s series of lucky guesses and convenient coincidences keep the scavenger hunt moving at an entertaining pace. It’s helped along by one character or another exclaiming, “It’s a clue!” each and every time. (They’re the only ones surprised in the theater.) Then someone follows it up with an over-explanation of what they’re looking at and what it means to the overall puzzle. And just in case you’re not amped up by this 2-hour “Amazing Race” episode, enthusiastic music is dropped over the action to remind you when to be excited.
The movie has everything you wouldn’t expect from a realistic treasure hunting movie. I picture excavations with careful tools and beige jumpsuits, not gun play and random car chases. Who knew that history could be so fun… when fictionalized and then hammered to fit the mold of this cookie cutter mystery. It’s like Indiana Jones, only without all the quality filmmaking.
In the end, the big reveal is overshadowed by how unrealistic everything turns out after the treasure is discovered. You’ve probably had a good time if you managed to turn your brain off for the duration. Good thing it’s so forgettable or you might realize how silly the whole thing was.