The latest offering from action specialist producer Jerry Bruckheimer is predictably short in the character and logic departments, but what’s most disconcerting about the movie is that it’s an escapist movie that feels more like the history lectures you used to sleep through during school.Admittedly, National Treasure has a fun, if derivative (part DaVinci Code, part Masonic conspiracy) setup.
Suppose that our Founding Fathers, through their involvement with the Freemasons, had procured and hidden a massive fortune of antiquities from around the world and placed the invaluable ancient payload somewhere in the continental United States.
To conceal this bounty, the Fathers left some clues that only those deeply familiar with Masonic rituals and lore could figure them out and placed them in very public documents and locations.
The latter is a bit of a master stroke because documents like the Declaration of Independence are so well known and protected that most people wouldn’t think to look for the hidden signs, and those who knew of them would have great difficulty even getting to the important papers.
For treasure hunter Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage), this potential find is significant for more than fiduciary value because for decades his family has maintained the fortune existed despite only fragmentary evidence to the contrary.
The matter becomes urgent when a former benefactor (Sean Bean) turns on him when he and Ben begin unraveling the serpentine trail.
Ben should have known better. Wasn’t he aware that in Hollywood movies people with British accents are inherently villainous?
Needless to say, Ben now has to prevent Declaration of Independence and other documents from being swiped and discarded along with the treasure itself. The only way he can do that is by stealing the Declaration himself.
For that task, he enlists the only partner in his previous expedition left (Justin Bartha), his father (Jon Voight) and a government expert (Diane Kruger, Troy). As one might expect in a Bruckheimer flick, the expert is a gorgeous blonde who has managed to acquire her massive erudition despite being well under the age of thirty. The explanation of Kruger’s German accent (at least that’s real) is also a bit of a giggle inducer as well.
Had director Jon Turteltaub (Instinct) aimed more squarely for laughs the impossibilities wouldn’t seem so jarring. Instead, the film’s earnestness gets corny. Even actors as skilled as Voight and Cage can't do much with committee script that piles on more platitudes that a Steven Covey book.
If you want jingoist grandstanding that's intentionally funny, Team America: World Police is a better bet. Even though it is a blistering parody of Bruckheimer's usual guns and glory cinema, it has more engaging action scenes than this one does. The sets look cheap, and Jon Turteltaub has little sense of pacing or screen composition.Like most Bruckheimer movies, this one begins with a lightning bolt. After a few minutes, one wishes it had struck the producer himself.