March 25, 2008 -- I rolled into a cut-rate theater in Cheyenne last weekend to catch this movie for a buck. I'm glad I did not spend more. It is even sillier and less entertaining than the first film in this series. This, like the first film, is essentially a ripoff of “The Da vinci Code” idea of a global snipe hunt. The action is fast and furious as the intrepid band of treasure hunters breathlessly pursues a series of ludicrous clues while being pursued by law enforcement authorities and henchmen of another evil treasure seeker. In short, it is a virtual replay of the first “National Treasure” movie. There are clues hidden in the Oval Office of the White House, Buckingham Palace and in the Statue of Liberty. Each clue is subject to multiple interpretations, but the treasure hunters always guess right the first time.
Nicolas Cage reprises his role as Ben Gates and Jon Voight reprises his role as Ben's father, Patrick Gates. Justin Bartha and Diane Kruger both reprise their roles as Riley Poole and Abigail Chase. In this sequel, Ben and Abigail have been married and separated. Riley has published a book, but lost his money somehow. A mysterious historian, Mitch Wilkinson (played by Ed Harris of “A History of Violence”) unveils a page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth which implicates Ben's great-grandfather in a conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. Deciphering a series of ludicrous clues, Ben and his father decide the only way to clear their family name is uncover the secret of a lost city of gold, a secret that Ben's great grandfather successfully hid from agents of the Confederacy, and everyone else in the world. It turns out that Wilkinson planted the evidence against Gates in order to get Ben Gates and his fellow treasure hunters to lead him to the lost city of gold. The chase is on. The FBI gets in on the pursuit after Ben Gates kidnaps the president of the United States (played by Bruce Greenwood, who once played President Kennedy in the film “13 Days”) in an attempt to get his hands on the president's “Book of Secrets.” The book has clues to the location of the city of gold.
Instead of long ago going to a great deal of trouble planting these clues all over the world, why didn't these people just go get the treasure themselves? In the first movie, an explanation is given for this, not a convincing one, but at least an attempt is made to explain why the treasure is still there. Another mystery is why the president knows exactly where the book of secrets is and how to get to it, but for some reason he hasn't read a particular page in the book he seems to be interested in.
The action is constant and the film is fast moving once the basic premise has been set up. The characters are likable, even the villain, Wilkinson, is not an altogether unlikable rogue. There is a bit of humor in the movie too. Riley Poole does his best Rodney Dangerfield impression, constantly trying to get some respect from his fellow treasure hunters, other scholars and the general public. He proudly points out that a clue to the treasure can be found in his own, largely overlooked, book. The film is very thin on character development. There is no good explanation for why Abigail Chase, for instance, is going along on this risky, far-fetched treasure hunt. This is a big budget production and there are some good looking set pieces. It is not a bad adventure yarn, but it is as thin as a potato chip when it comes to the story. This film rates a C.
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