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Movie Review: National Treasure 2

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Written by Cormac Wibberly and Marianne Wibberly from a story by the Wibberlys, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio

I thought the first National Treasure was a pretty decent guilty pleasure; it was something that was fun in spite of its nonsensical storyline.  I like puzzles, codes, conspiracy theories, etc., and the movie had a lot of it.  So I was able to forgive a lot of nonsense along the way.

So, really, all National Treasure: Book of Secrets had to do was keep much of this intact, and not beat me over the head with stupidity, and I’d be fine with it.

Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and his father Patrick (Jon Voight) are giving seminars on the Lincoln-assassination conspirators.  John Wilkes Booth got all the headlines, but he was working with others.  At the seminar, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) claims that Gates’ ancestor Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch) was in on the conspiracy, with a burned page from Booth’s diary to prove it.  Ben and Patrick want to clear their ancestor’s name, so they need to get Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) back in action.

Abigail and Ben have broken up, much like movie couples do between the first and second film, and Riley is unsuccessfully trying to sell a book on the Templar Treasure from the first film, and people equate him as a mere sidekick to the “real” treasure hunter, Ben.  But, it’s not very long until they’re all together again, studying the burned Booth diary page, looking for clues, which they find.  Not only is Thomas Gates’ name on the line, but possibly the Most Astounding Treasure of All Time.

This begins some world-traveling, first, ludicrously, to Paris where something that could easily be looked up on the internet is turned into this convoluted process involving a toy helicopter with a camera taking a picture of something that should be widely known.  From there, more travels and such, with Wilkinson hot on their trail, playing the can’t-do-it-on-his-own kind of villain that you might recognize from the Indiana Jones movies.  Somewhere along the line, they’re going to need help from Ben’s mom, Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren).  Police detective Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) returns in this installment.

There are a couple of puzzles/codes to solve, but this isn’t nearly as much fun as the original because it doesn’t stay on that track very well.  Above I mentioned the completely unnecessary trip to Paris, but there are more head-slapping lapses in narrative judgment.  Somehow, Gates is able to sneak into Mount Vernon and talk to the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood, of course) and despite some protests from his security detail, is able to take him into a secret passage on the grounds.  There’s plenty more, and I could have totally forgiven it if it was stayed to a tight puzzles/codes schedule, giving us some fun historical ”facts” along the way, but there are only a couple of those that are any fun anyway, and the movie has an overbloated length.

Some will find this one to be just as good, if not better than the original.  But this one has too much nonsense to ignore.

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