MovieMantz Review: ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets’
First Published: December 24, 2007 4:20 PM EST Credit: Disney
-- “Buried ‘Treasure’”by Scott Mantz
“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Verdict: Skip it!)
If the first “National Treasure” was better than it probably deserved to be, then the sequel is worse than it has any right to be. Where the 2004 original was a fresh, fun and exciting Indiana Jones-style adventure that beat “The Da Vinci Code” to the cinematic punch by almost 2 years, “Book of Secrets” feels like just another stale, lazy, uninspired sequel. That’s something of a disappointment, since it was produced, written and directed by many of the same players that made the first film a surprise hit that grossed $347 million worldwide.
When a mysterious stranger (Ed Harris) shows up with alarming proof that an ancestor of self-proclaimed “treasure protector” Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) was a co-conspirator in the Lincoln assassination, Ben sets off on a worldwide quest to clear his name. Joining him once again are his estranged ex-girlfriend (Diane Kruger) and his cyber-savvy sidekick (Justin Bartha), but when their search leads to the discovery of the most highly-guarded book on earth, Ben’s quest to restore his family’s heritage turns into the most dangerous adventure of his life.
As with most blockbusters produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is bound to be more of a hit with moviegoers than it will be with critics. And as long as the action keeps things moving, it’s certainly entertaining enough. But if you’re going to compare apples to apples, then the sequel comes up short. The script is weak, the suspense is gone and the clues are solved too easily to instill a sense of wonder. And after stealing his scenes in the first film, the nerdy partner played by Justin Bartha just isn’t as funny this time around.
But the bigger problem is that the villain, played by Ed Harris, isn’t enough of a threat. He’s not as menacing as the first film’s Ian Howe (played by Sean Bean) — a worthy opponent to Ben Gates, since they both knew the same tricks and had to constantly outwit each other. Adding double jeopardy to the mix was the FBI agent played by Harvey Keitel, who was right behind both of them every step of the way. In “Book of Secrets,” he’s less of a threat, since he doesn’t even get out of the office until more than halfway through the movie.
Nicolas Cage is committed as always, but with little time for romance, Diane Kruger doesn’t have as much to do this time around. Jon Voight seems happy just to be along for the ride as Cage’s father, while Helen Mirren — a recent Oscar-winner for “The Queen” — seems to be having a grand old time as Cage’s mother. Bruce Greenwood makes the most of an otherwise absurd scene in which his President of the United States is kidnapped, but it’s worth noting, since he played a President before — John F. Kennedy — in 2000’s “Thirteen Days.”
“Book of Secrets” goes with the assumption that moviegoers will have already seen the original film, since character development is practically non-existent. And that familiarity is fine to an extent, but if the characters don’t continue to grow — or, at least, change in some kind of notable way — then it’s hard to get vested in their best interests. The first film may have been inspired, but the sequel feels tired, and as a result, this “National Treasure” comes up a dollar short.
Copyright 2013 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.