national treasurekruger

I wanted to hate this movie for several reasons. It was the second in a series that I was not certain should have been continued. It was designed to be “family friendly,” and it had been produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. However, against my preconceptions, I actually liked this film.

For those unfamiliar with the National Treasure franchise, it is the story of a historian/treasure-hunter named Ben Gates (played with more convincing transplanted hair by Nicolas Cage), his father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight), and his techno-savvy but somewhat annoying sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha). The series is a poorly disguised attempt to capitalize on the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, as was its predecessor, the original National Treasure.

Ben and Riley are fresh from the success of their prior escapade. Riley has written a tell-all book and Ben appears to be giving lectures on his historical pursuits. During one such lecture, a page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth is presented which appears to implicate Ben’s great-grandfather in the assasination of President Lincoln. His hair-transplant hackles raised, Ben tries to clear his family name.

In the process, however, Ben and Riley stumble across a plot by England to support the confederacy in the the Civil War by providing access to a fabled ancient american “city of gold.” In the process of searching for the city, Riley and Ben team up with Ben’s almost-ex, the rather hot Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), Ben’s mother Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren), and a supporting cast peppered with the Hollywood elite.

The overal plot is fast-paced, intriguing and fun. In fact, some of the “clues” that Ben and Riley must unravel are fascinating to watch, including two tables that double as puzzle boxes, ancient Olmec pictoglyphs and the discovery of tunnels within Mount Rushmore. Although many of the “discoveries” stretch the boundaries of credulity, they are fun to watch if you can turn off your internal skeptic long enough to play along.

However, one of the central conceits of the story, that there is a book passed from President to President containing all of the “secrets” of the presidency, “including the truth behind the JFK assassination and Area 51″ is completely ridiculous. I am certain that documents relating to the two issues above are in existance, but I suspect they are widely scattered (if not shredded) and highly unlikely to be documented in a single book.

Overall the story was fun, exciting and had a certain Indiana Jones-like flair that I enjoyed. It is not a perfect movie by any measure, but it was fun and more enjoyable than I had predicted.

I give it ** 1/2 Jessicas out of four.


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