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Awesome: 19.69%
Worth A Look: 21.26%
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Pretty Crappy23.62%
Sucks: 12.6%

9 reviews, 73 user ratings

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National Treasure
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The first feature film ever based on a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet"
2 stars

Remember how when the characters on “Seinfeld” would go to the movies, they would almost always wind up going to see these made-up movies that would represent the silliest excesses of a particular genre? (Off the top of my head, I recall the action-thriller “Death Blow”, the Dabney Coleman comedy “Sack Lunch” and, most famously, the erotic art-house hit “Rochelle, Rochelle”.) “National Treasure” feels a lot like one of those deliberately goofy titles that somehow wound up getting made by people who didn’t quite get that it was supposed to be a joke. Even by the standards of boneheaded action epics, this is perhaps one of the most profoundly idiotic movies I’ve ever seen-a jumbo-sized mess with a central premise so deranged, one that includes conspiracy theories, evil foreign influences and the notion that our founding fathers were Freemasons who hid secret codes and messages in our currency, that it feels like the first feature film based on a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet.

Nicolas Cage, attempting to squander whatever good will he might have amassed with audiences from his work in “Adaptation” and “Matchstick Men”, stars as Benjamin Franklin Gates, a third-generation treasure hunter (and considering that his father and grandfather are played by Jon Voight and Christopher Plummer, a third-generation ham as well) who dreams of one day uncovering the greatest prize of all time-a massive treasure acquired by the Knights Templar centuries ago and which was brought to America and hidden by our Freemason Founding Fathers. The search has already brought ridicule to the Gates family and the only person Benjamin can find to help finance his quest is a sleazy foreigner named Ian Howe (Sean Bean). In the Arctic Circle, Benjamin uncovers a key artifact and cracks an elaborate code in about two seconds to figure out where the next clue is supposedly hidden-on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Ian leaves Benjamin and sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha) for dead and flees in order to steal the document for himself.

Unable to get anyone to believe his story-not the FBI, not Homeland Security, not even the cute running the National Archives (Diane Kruger)-Benjamin realizes that there is only one thing that he can do to protect the document (and the treasure) from being taken by Ian-he and Riley must steal it themselves. Of course, if Benjamin were half as brilliant as he claims to be, and not just a character in a crappy Jerry Bruckheimer film, he would have realized that Ian’s band of thugs would have most likely gotten busted in their attempt, thereby giving some credence to his wild story, and that his actions have only made the document more vulnerable to theft. Nevertheless, he goes through with his plan-an elaborate operation involving the ability to get into the public section of the National Archives with a laser-equipped video camera, the inability of security guards to recognize that the far-too-nonchalant “janitor” is not who he seems to be and a tight situation that can only be escaped with the help of a well-placed VISA plug-and makes off with both the Declaration of Independence and the cute blonde. Although the trailers would have you believe otherwise, these events take up roughly the first 45 minutes or so of the actual film. The clues on the back of the document lead to clues and Benjamin and his gang continue on a chase that finds them ransacking the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, at least one grave, several vast underground chambers and whatever shreds of credulity that hapless audience members might still possess.

Look, I am fully aware that looking for logic or profound narrative development in a film like “National Treasure” is a fool’s mission. In a film like this, all I really ask for is that the filmmakers and actors develop and perform the story with a certain amount of wit and style and enough forward momentum to keep the plot holes from becoming too obvious. However, the general sense that I got from watching the film is of a bunch of people who recognized early on that they were in a stinker and have therefore decided to expend only a minimal effort. Take the basic plot-even the most forgiving sort would have to admit that it is completely preposterous. A smart film would have fun with its increasing implausibilities (as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” did) but director Jon Turteltaub, directing a screenplay written by many but without any real note of individuality, goes about it with a dogged earnestness that sucks any entertainment out of the proceedings and matters aren’t helped by listless action scenes that look exactly like the kind of action scenes you would expect from the man who made “While You Were Sleeping” and “Disney’s The Kid”. Even the usually brilliant cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, whose work on “The Right Stuff” and “The Black Stallion” still remains breathtaking today, turns in the most listless and anonymous look of his entire career; the film has the bland, edge-free style that plays okay on television but which gains nothing on the silver screen.

There are many limp performances as well, running the range from wild overacting (from Cage, who must realize that he is in danger of doing the same thing to his career in these brainless action movies that Burt Reynolds did to his a couple of decades ago) to listless underplaying (from Kruger, who, as she did in “Troy” and “Wicker Park”, has apparently mastered the art of looking simultaneously stunning and stunned) to sheepish embarrassment (courtesy of Harvey Keitel as the FBI agent doggedly pursuing our heroes). The closest thing to energetic work comes from Justin Bartha, whose entire performance seems to convey relief that whatever flaws there may be, at least it is better (slightly) than “Gigli”. Other than him, everyone else on the screen appears as bored and surly as those in the audience-of course, they are getting millions for the privilege while viewers are left empty-handed. A good deal if you are one of those actors-somewhat less so if you aren’t.

Upon reflection, I suppose that I can think of one other person who might get a kick out of this film. (Please consider the remainder of this review to be one giant Spoiler.) The hero, as you know, is desperate to restore the good name of his family from the ridicule that has been heaped upon it by those namby-pamby jerks in Washington (who have gone so far to the other side that they have allowed common foreigners-a German, no less!- to be put in charge of our most precious national treasures). To do so, he must embark on an act that he knows is reckless and immoral, but he justifies it with such proclamations as “Those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.” (Said action has disastrous results specifically because of his actions but he never quite seems to grasp that.) He claims that he is only in it for the good of the country and not for personal gain, yet he is swimming in wealth at the end from his actions (and the wealth, of course, comes from treasures plundered from other cultures and civilizations). Finally, his oppressor, an independently-wealthy foreigner, is dealt a humiliating defeat in the virtual center of the liberal world-Boston. I have a sneaky suspicion that “National Treasure” is going to be in heavy rotation on Air Force One for the next four years.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11158&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/19/04 00:08:58
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User Comments

8/13/20 Suzanne A really fun movie; Cage was good. 4 stars
3/30/11 TG It might be silly and plotholed, but it's genuinely fun and extremely rewatchable. 5 stars
2/19/11 Ark FINALLY! Someone else hates this turkey as much as me! 1 stars
12/25/09 Jeff Wilder Not bad popcorn entertainment. 3 stars
11/01/09 Greg needed patriotism from anti-american hollywood 5 stars
10/07/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
2/12/08 Irisea I just have to say that i really love this movie!! 5 stars
12/24/07 Matt wow..... I blame the da vinci code for this load. I want the last two hours of my life back 1 stars
11/23/07 Thomas Semesky Watchable but rather silly. You have to suspend all reasoning. 3 stars
9/18/07 j-bird it was really good 4 stars
6/03/07 Stuck In Left Yeah flawed but watchable/enjoyable enough 3 stars
5/27/07 Whitely My favorite Movie Ever! You have to watch it! 5 stars
4/14/07 R.W.Welch Too contrived to have much impact. Average acting. 3 stars
3/26/07 kathy underheart childress strokes his cock again and thinks he's the funniest man in the world 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Rollicking, cheer-the-heroes adventure. 4 stars
2/01/07 Pam Fantastic! 5 stars
12/26/06 Parker H. Smock National Treasure is a government input to Hollywood fantasy wake movie about 9/11 5 stars
9/04/06 Jarkko Perälä Really, really boring 2 stars
9/01/06 the producer it made over 500 million doallrs 4 stars
6/15/06 Michele fun and clever 4 stars
5/21/06 Diane P this was very entertaining and really enjoyable 4 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer It's American History 101 made... AWESOME!!! 5 stars
3/09/06 Dk Patchy as hell but damned good fun to 3 stars
2/10/06 Anthony This is Indiana Jones with Nicholas Cage 3 stars
1/06/06 Michael Silly story ... good movie 4 stars
12/19/05 Quigley this was a great caper movie. good action and acting, but plot was kinda empty-headed 5 stars
12/14/05 none of your bissnes good 3 stars
12/08/05 millersxing Exploring secret societies often makes for serpentine yet silly plots. 2 stars
10/25/05 Frank Rountree Good story. Pace moves well 4 stars
10/11/05 Jennifer Free A lot of fun and clean. Great family film! 5 stars
10/03/05 Aldo not bad...much than sahara..but not as good as indiana Jones 4 stars
9/12/05 i wont tell you very boring movie 1 stars
8/16/05 Dan Not bad... it's better than 80% of the crap Hollywood released last year 4 stars
7/15/05 tony Not a bad film. in fact, i liked it. 4 stars
6/14/05 JFK damn patriotism!!!! USA sucks and this movie tries to make the ancestors good people. 2 stars
6/07/05 Helen Bradley Not worth a look boring 1 stars
6/05/05 Daniel Myers This movie is really cool! I love it! If you dont like it you dont get it! 5 stars
5/31/05 Jiz Kinda boring, weak plot. "I have connections" = "I figured you out in a scene they deleted" 3 stars
5/27/05 Quigley whoever doesn't like this film is a dope. greatly entertaining, but suspend disbelief 5 stars
5/12/05 edsandiego2 I love the DVD and the special feature. 4 stars
5/07/05 Valerie Cool movie. 4 stars
5/04/05 Dan Pretty good! 5 stars
4/30/05 Steve Newman easy film - no brain ache - I enjoyed it (on a 757 from USA) 4 stars
4/29/05 Nobody This is an awesome action/adventure, the Da Vinci code meets Indiana Jones 5 stars
4/23/05 allnight9 Looking from a family stand point this is a great movie to take the kids to 4 stars
4/16/05 iteachpc Loved it! 5 stars
2/01/05 Charlie Only okay because Nic was in it! 3 stars
1/27/05 Flicker I thought this movie was a good way to spend a cold afternoon at the theater. Liked it!! 4 stars
1/26/05 Sumie It a good movie, it makes you think, watch it! 5 stars
1/17/05 Dave M Not high art, but entertaining; appreciate it's something you can take a family to see 4 stars
1/09/05 Brett Mindless fun, a little predictable, but good 4 stars
1/08/05 burton miller unbelievable, clunky, dumb 1 stars
12/16/04 Jenny from Da block This movie kicks ass! 5 stars
12/15/04 Ranting Madman Stupid beyond measure. Another Schlockheimer triumph. 1 stars
12/13/04 Ron Dumlao not a must-see film, but i nonetheless had fun 3 stars
12/12/04 bobby da squid Awkward dialogue, absurd plot, intrusive music. Not horrible, but very mediocre 2 stars
12/10/04 Aboud A Da Vinci Code wannabe. The 'clues' arent as clever as they could have been. 2 stars
12/09/04 willliam pond excellent; you critics are certainly of of touch with main stream movie watchers 4 stars
12/04/04 Lord Jiggy Low expectations were rewarded with fun, if derivative, romp. 4 stars
12/02/04 gray BS storyline 1 stars
11/30/04 RogueJS Interesting, but too Disney-ized. It could have been dark & thought-provoking, i.e. better 3 stars
11/26/04 Destiny Pifer This was a awesome adventure movie! 5 stars
11/25/04 Vicky The purpose of films is to be entertaiining, and this one was. Great 5 stars
11/24/04 Megan National Treasure is a really cool movie cause I luv history espesially egypt & ben frank 5 stars
11/24/04 KingNeutron Sean Bean 0wnz0red this movie. And the 3D stuff *was* pretty cool. 4 stars
11/23/04 John Very interesting; very informative 5 stars
11/22/04 linda It's fun 5 stars
11/21/04 Bell Girl What a waste of money. More brainless dribble from Hollywood. Yipppeee 2 stars
11/21/04 Heath If you're looking for something fun, then a treasure you'll find in this movie. 5 stars
11/20/04 Meryl I'm a history major, and therefore found it quite a fun romp. 5 stars
11/20/04 Kristina Williams Nicolas Cage is no longer relevant 1 stars
11/19/04 impartial judgement nicolas cage needs to retire w/his underage wife 1 stars
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  19-Nov-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 03-May-2005



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