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NATIONAL TREASURE (PG) (2004)

Touchstone Pictures

Official Site

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub

Written by: Jim Kouf, Cormac and Marianne Wibberley

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Plummer, Oleg Taktarov

Rating:


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 money.

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 roles.

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

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



none now
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