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Laramie Movie Scope:
National Treasure

Goofy adventure film is half-witted fun

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 6, 2004 -- “National Treasure” is a tired formula treasure hunt film in the “Indiana Jones” or “The Mummy” vein, but not nearly as good as either of those films. This is more like “The Goonies,” but without the imagination. The story concerns a quest for a legendary treasure formerly belonging to the Knights Templar (also the source of the “Maltese Falcon” treasure). The story is reportedly lifted from “The Da Vinci Code.”

The movie is too long, there is no character development and a weak romance, but it does have a few laughs along the way, and the acting is solid. It doesn't take itself seriously. It is harmless fun, but it could have been done a lot better. For instance, the story could have been rewritten so that is was remotely plausible, instead of using a lot of half-baked old conspiracy theories, wild coincidences, pseudo-science, laughable history, and using academic characters who suddenly turn into super heroes when the need arises. The special effects also look cheap.

Nicholas Cage stars as the treasure hunter Ben Gates, who has been searching for this particular lode for his whole life. He partners with the unscrupulous Ian Howe (played by Sean Bean of “Lord of the Rings”), to find the second clue to the treasure, an intricately carved pipe. The pipe leads to the next clue and so on, with Howe and Gates each trying to get to the next clue first. To give you an idea how silly this all is, the pipe is hidden on a ship buried beneath the ice for several hundred years in the arctic circle. Yet when the treasure hunters locate the wooden ship (with metal detectors no less), Gates is able to find a convenient plaque with the ship's name on it by scraping the snow away in a couple of minutes, using only his hands to dig with. Of course, the ship should have been crushed by the ice and sunk hundreds of years ago. It would not be intact, nor would it be close to the surface of the ice. By comparison, the “Indiana Jones” and “Mummy” films were documentaries.

I found it curious that this film did such a big business at the box office until I found out that the film's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, specifically tailored this film to the key moviegoing demographic of 12 and 13-year-olds. This explains why the movie looks a lot like a video game. Smart move, Jerry. You hit the jackpot with this one. I think the other key to box office success is timing. There's no strong PG-rated competition in the market, except the vastly superior “The Incredibles” and the audience for that film had largely dissipated by the time “National Treasure” was released. For 12-year-olds, this is probably a B movie, but for adults like me, it is more of a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)