Ken's Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets - Poorly Done But Still Enjoyable
by Ken Evans
December 22, 2007
Let's start off by stating exactly what National Treasure: Book of Secrets is: a fun family film. It is certainly not a complex film. It's a very simple story that has no depth so you don't have to spend much time thinking and can spend more time watching. To be honest, I have no problem with this. That doesn't mean it was all that great either, but for the audience it is trying to reach, made up of parents and their kids, it succeeds. If you're going by yourself, like the guy who was sleeping next to me, this one might not be for you.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is the continuing story of Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) trying to clear his family name from embarrassment. This time Ben's great grandfather, Thomas Gates, is accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) brings forth evidence that points to Thomas Gates' involvement in the assassination, a missing page of John Wilkes Booth's diary. Patrick Gates (Jon Voight) is disheartened by the news and so Ben sets off to find historical evidence that will prove the Gates family innocent.
Doesn't that plot sound really familiar? It should, because it's just about the same film as the first National Treasure. Cage has to follow historical clues to find a treasure whose existence will clear their family name. I guess they assumed that since it worked for the first one they might as well try it again. The problem is that the story is much less clever and intriguing as the first film. In the first film they delved into history much more and were able to tie all the clues together in interesting ways. Knowing your history in the first film was the only way you would be able to find the treasure. In this second film, the historical explanations for clues are spit out quickly, and frankly just don't make sense. I have no idea how they got from Chinese puzzle desks to needing to kidnap the President of the United States. Plus, the "book of secrets", which is in the title of the film, barely has anything to do with the plot. This is unfortunate because it was the coolest concept of the movie.
They end up rushing from clue to clue so quickly that it's like the director doesn't want to give the audience time to catch all the holes in the story. If the holes aren't enough, they also deal with a struggling relationship between Ben Gates and Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). Watching a separated couple argue with each other about what he said or she said while trying to escape from Buckingham Palace is just annoying and frustrating.
Other friends from the first film are brought back: sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and FBI agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel). Obviously, Bartha is there to provide some comic relief and for Cage to bounce clever one-liners off of, while Keitel is again on the pursuit of Cage to provide an extremely weak sense of urgency in finding the treasure.
The acting was only ok on the whole. Cage seemed to jump between his recently boring wooden side and his yelling, overacting-trying-to-be-passionate side. This is a shame as I know he can be a great actor from movies like Adaptation, Matchstick Men, and Lord of War. His last few performances in Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man, and Next were just plain bad. Jon Voight was also off his game in this. I can't really put my finger on it but he came across as very awkward. The only person I really liked (but wasn't in it much) was the President (Bruce Greenwood).
Obviously, I didn't think this movie was done very well. It's a film that consists of poor performances, plot holes, and regurgitated ideas from the first film. Did I still enjoy it? Yes, I did enjoy it, just not immensely. You have to take this one for what it is and what I said at the beginning, a fun family film. Other critics are going to pick it apart like I did and then tell everyone to skip it. What I will tell you is that if you're looking for a fun, wholesome film that you can take your family to this Christmas weekend, then National Treasure: Book of Secrets won't let you down. There is something for everyone whether you're looking for some laughter or a bit of suspense. Just because a movie might not be Oscar worthy doesn't mean that you still can't enjoy it. I wonder what the sleeping guy next to me thought.