Movie Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

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Benjamin Franklin Gates searches for a treasure that will exonerate his grandfather in an assassination plot.

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Jon Turtelaub, 2007

Since the events of the previous film, the romance between Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) has fizzled, thanks to Ben’s obsessive need to be right about everything. On a totally unrelated note, the scheming Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) brings to light that Ben’s however-many-greats granddaddy may have been involved in the assassination plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. This is, of course, of major importance to literally everybody in the known world, so Ben goes about clearing his ancestor’s name. In order to do that, he has to solve a bunch of clues that lead to a treasure, because…well, let’s face it, they basically have to copy the first film. They get the gang back together, including miserable bankrupt failure (but don’t worry, ladies, he’s still cute) Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Ben’s disapproving daddy Patrick Gates (Jon Voight, who’s all gung ho about treasure hunting now, but wasn’t he all “stop this nonsense” last film?). They also drag Ben’s poor mother Emily (Helen Mirren) along for the ride as they try to beat Mitch to clues to…kidnap the president (Bruce Greenwood! Punch it!), technically committing treason while trying to clear Thomas Gates. Good job, bro.

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This movie makes so little sense. I mean, I’m pretty sure I understood it while I was watching it, but now I cannot for the life of me recall how the whole presidential assassination thing connected to the Eiffel Tower and the titular Presidents’ Book full of secrets and Native American treasure. I just can’t put it all together. To be fair, I actually can’t remember the plot of the first film, but at least they went looking for treasure in that one instead of it somehow being a way of clearing Ben Gates’ good name. Which, by the way, is this really a thing? That a very vague maybe-connection to an assassination hundreds of years ago could possibly cause this much drama? I know Ben’s a history nerd, but the reaction (presidential kidnapping) to news of his ancestor’s possible treachery is pretty hardcore. It’s also so unrelated to the action of the rest of the movie that it’s kind of frustrating – it seems like they had a good idea for a movie, and some good ideas for scenes, and then they threw it all in a blender with Indiana Jones’ fedora and maybe some pirate treasure. Ta-da! Instant movie.

Fortunately for moviegoers everywhere, Nicolas Cage goes full, er, Nicolas Cage in this film when trying to make a scene. Justin Bartha is a bigger pain in the ass as Riley this time, but hey, he’s still cute. And there’s always Diane Kruger and Helen Mirren if he’s not up your alley. Being a wannabe Indiana Jones movie, the pace moves along fast enough that you don’t really need to understand what’s happening, and the score keeps the old heart rate up. They try to up the ante on the whole “stealing the Declaration of Independence” thing from the last film, but it doesn’t quite connect when you know how big these films are willing to go. The highlight of the presidential kidnapping stuff is easily Bruce Greenwood’s smooth, friendly President, who seems great. Helen Mirren does an American accent here, which pretty much continues in the films’ tendency to cast obviously not-American women as American women (I’m looking at you and your accent, Diane Kruger). The ending has some stuff that looks cool, but makes no sense. It’s a silly movie, and it’s not as much fun as it should be.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets on IMDb

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