Despite my initial reservations, National Treasure emerged
as a surprisingly entertaining and solid popcorn movie. I usually
loathe just about all Jerry Bruckheimer films.
Ditto for most of the work by screenwriters Cormac and Marianne
Wibberley. In addition, director and producer Jon
Turteltaub has quite a few skeletons in his closet. 3
Ninjas anyone? Exactly.
I hesitate to say that National Treasure is more intelligent
than the usual Bruckheimer fare. Perhaps a better way of putting
it is, not more intelligent, but less stupid and ridiculous. This
is not a bloated, overdone, over-edited, overshot, action picture—although
I expected that after watching the opening sequence with the movie’s
only explosion. A Bruckheimer film with only one explosion can only
mean two things: a sign of improvement for Bruckheimer or no more
Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage), the protagonist,
is a charismatic and intuitive historian, mechanical engineer, and
naval diver. When he was a lad, Ben’s grandfather, John Adams
(yeah I know) Gates (Plummer) inducted him into
the Freemasons, a group evolved from the Knights’ Templar
that safe-keeps a humongous treasure amassed from around the world.
Ben continues the family’s legacy by searching for the treasure,
much to the chagrin of his father, Patrick (Voight).
Ben found a benefactor in Ian Howe (Bean), who
finds the latest clue which proves to be a map on the American Declaration
of Independence, then violently cuts their ties. Intent on keeping
the treasure and the Declaration out of Ian’s hands, Ben decides
to steal it himself after the FBI and the “Saxon-German”
National Archivist, Abigail Chase (Kruger, yet
again playing the supporting love interest) ignore his warnings.
The subplot is actually resolved faster than the trailers for the
movie would suggest. So now there’s a race to find this lost
treasure, while dealing with FBI Agent Sadusky (Keitel).
This is hardly great cinema, but it is viewable and kept my attention
on a night when I felt like a zombie and was ready to pass out from
fatigue. Some of the performances are hit-and-miss, such as Bartha
(you might remember him as the mentally disabled kid from Gigli…
then again you probably shouldn’t) as Riley, Ben’s sarcastic
tech-friendly partner. Some of his schtick made me chuckle, but
at other times it made me groan. I love Sean Bean, who is good here,
but he merely plays his typical bad-guy persona. Kruger, while very
easy on the eyes, just does not have the chops for these kinds of
National Treasure is certainly no Indiana Jones,
but since the fourth installment of that franchise is never going
to happen, it’s sometimes cool to see movies that provoke
a pleasant nostalgia for prior films and the era in which they were
released. There’s nothing wrong with that. Plain and simple,
National Treasure is fun and harmless entertainment. However,
remember, this is Jerry Bruckheimer, so give some thought to whether
the film is really worth your money.
—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris