National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

2007, Movie, PG, 120 mins

Review

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
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The supporting cast is marginally better, the script is considerably worse but the NATIONAL TREASURE formula — Da Vinci Code-style riddles and historically inaccurate scavenger hunts crossed with booby traps and feats of derring-do straight out of Indiana Jones — remains exactly, exhaustingly the same.

A famous treasure hunter since he found the Templar's fabled treasure deep under Manhattan’s Trinity Church, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) lectures about his great-grandfather, 19th-century code breaker Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch), who was asked to decode a cipher found scribbled in the pages of a diary belonging to none other than John Wilkes Booth (Christian Camargo) on the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. With the code nearly cracked, Thomas Gates realized he was dealing with a member of the treasonous anti-Unionist cabal known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, whom conspiracy theorists now believe hoarded gold in a post-Civil War effort to overthrow the U.S. government. Ben suggests that by burning key pages from Booth's journal, his great-grandfather destroyed an important clue to some vast treasure the KGC was seeking and, consequently, saved the Union. But at the end of his lecture, Ben is confronted by Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the descendant of a Confederate general who insists that Thomas Gates was no hero, but rather the mastermind behind the assassination plot. With a flourish, Wilkinson produces his proof: a surviving fragment of the Booth diary pages listing Thomas Gates among the other conspirators. Determined to save his family’s honor — and perhaps uncover another legendary treasure — Gate reenlists the help of his grumpy dad (Jon Voight), comically ironic sidekick, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), and rare-documents expert Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who has just kicked Ben out of the home they’ve been sharing since the end of NATIONAL TREASURE. True to the film’s form, Wilkinson's scrap of diary page contains a pale imprint of the destroyed cipher, which, once decoded, tips the team off to what the KGC was hoping to find: Cibola, the legendary ancient Native American city of gold.

In true scavenger-hunt fashion, one clue leads to another and soon the quest for Cibola leads the team first to France and London, then to Washington, D.C., where Ben hits on the bright idea of kidnapping the president (Bruce Greenwood) in order to gain access to a top-secret presidential tome containing all the best-kept state secrets Ben hopes will help in his search. Oscar-winner Helen Mirren appears as Ben’s mother — conveniently, she's an expert in dead Native-American languages — and she's a welcome addition to the cast, but the film is otherwise a sequel by rote. It shares all the original's shortcomings — it’s too long and too loud and filled with historical disinformation — but none of the snap that made NATIONAL TREASURE fun for kids and a guilty pleasure for some adults. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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