National Treasure: Book of Secrets

The ugly side of popcorn munching.

Released in 2007, certified UK-PG. Reviewed on 22 Apr 2008 by Scott Morris
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Not to be confused with The Blair Witch Project 2 : Book of Shadows, although the concept of the film is just about as silly. Nic Cage, seemingly entirely unnecessarily revisits his role as Ben Gates, this time taking up a quest to clear his long dead great great etc grandfather's name after a document is brought to light implicating him in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

For, well, fuck knows what reason, this sees our merry band of adventurers fannying about in a increasingly ludicrous series of treasure-hunty style sleuthing that eventually sees them uncovering a lost city of gold, at around about the same time that reality suspends itself and lets crack addled script writers do whatever the hell they like. Look out for National Treasure 3: Nic Cage vs. the Space Aliens from Space, coming soon to a pitching session near Hollywood.

So, an overwhelmingly daft idea for a film? Well, yes, but in the interest of Devil's Advocacy it's not like the Indiana Jones films from which this series takes at least some of its inspiration from can claim to have goals that are particularly grounded in realism.

Was the world screaming out for another installation of a third string action adventure franchise? I'd assumed not, but it's difficult to argue with box office numbers such as Nat Tres, as the cool kids call it, has garnered by this point. So, what does it offer that's so appealing?

National Treasure: Book of Secrets image

Hell if I know, guv. Let's grant it this, once you've managed to gut your way over the initial wall of stupid that is the plot setup and the thing starts moving along, it's a reasonably enjoyable watch as long as you keep your grey matter firmly in idle. It follows, to the extent of occasionally seeming to parody, The Da Vinci Code in as much as it tends to follow a chase scene with dull expositiony sit-around-o-chats, repeated until they run out of film stock, but it's nothing like as irritating as it was in that silly religion bothering waste of space.

What else? Well, I guess Nic Cage remains an enjoyable enough actor to watch, although I wish he or his agent would start exhibiting better taste in the sort of films they're choosing to do. Support, even when no one seems particularly motivated to care, from the likes of Jon Voight, Helen Mirren and Ed Harris cannot be completely discounted.

So, it's not a complete and utter write off, at least for something that has no intention at all of ever rising above a mild diversion that allows an opportunity for people to buy popcorn. So, despite the fact that the script appears to have emerged from the Scriptulator 4000 Automated Scenario Generation Difference Engine and directed by a similar automaton, in terms of achieving what it sets out to do it's hard to think of Nat Tres: Bo of Sec as anything other than a big ol' roaring success. The fact that, as action adventures go this would require a good deal more polish to reach middle of the road status is quite tragic, yet at the same time perhaps entirely irrelevant.

Perhaps it's time I stop demanding that films be, y'know, good. Frankly, as long as the great unwashed of this world (not you guys, obviously. The Others, I'm talking about) keep rewarding studios with silly amounts of your money based seemingly on the pretty poster, there's little incentive for them to make higher quality films. Or, indeed, for people like me to finish a review within five months of the film coming out. Why bother? As long as mediocrity continues to make money hand over fist, everyone who's going to make money out of films is happy, and for some bizarre reason everyone who pays for films is happy, all we've got to look forward to is more mediocrity.

Well, I'm not quite ready to give up just yet. This film is pish.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Jon Turteltaub
Cast list:
Nicolas Cage (Ben Gates)
Justin Bartha (Riley Poole)
Diane Kruger (Abigail Chase)
Jon Voight (Patrick Gates)
Helen Mirren (Prof. Emily Appleton)
Ed Harris (Mitch Wilkinson)