Second "National Treasure" doesn't glitter

Dec. 28, 2007, midnight | By Monica Wei | 14 years, 7 months ago

Sequel lacks charm and originality of first

Sequel fever has struck once again. Producers and film companies come up with a decent movie idea; it makes money. Film companies think: if we could do the same thing again, we could make more money! They revamp the idea and make a sequel nearly identical to the first. Unfortunately, many of these sequels, such as "National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets," fall flat with repeated jokes and stupid plot twists.

The second "National Treasure" sends archeologist-slash-historian Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) across the world searching for Cibola, the famed City of Gold. Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), a fellow treasure-seeker, has found a page of John Wilkes Booth's diary, which named Ben's ancestor Thomas Gates as the mastermind behind President Lincoln's assassination. Now Ben must find the City of Gold to clear the family name, and needs the U.S. President's Book of Secrets to do so. None of the details make sense, but the incoherence doesn't seem to matter to these producers.

Ben travels to Paris and London searching for clues to the Native American city, making someone wonder exactly how much time old political leaders had to spare for creating codes and puzzles to be broken by adventurers centuries after their death. The clues and artifacts this time make even less sense than the ones of the first movie, but who cares? Marvel at the characters' brilliance and their abilities to solve riddles!

For the most part, the plot can be ignored (all you need to know: they're looking for treasure). The film offers nice scenery – from Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower to Mount Rushmore. But many scenes of the epic journey that could have been entertaining wind up only mildly interesting. The car chase in London feels bumpy instead of nerve-wracking, and even the film's climactic scenes are altogether unimpressive.

The talented cast from the first movie returns, bringing fun and humor to an otherwise dull film. New are Helen Mirren, who delivers a majestic performance as Ben's mother Emily Appleton, and Ed Harris, perfectly threatening and stoic as the mercenary Mitch Wilkinson. Nicholas Cage makes a brilliant return, still quirky and nerdy but altogether likeable. Unfortunately, the repetitive banter between Ben and his now-ex-girlfriend Abigail(Diane Kruger), exactly the same as in the first movie, drags on and on, as do many of techie Riley's (Justin Bartha) sarcastic comments.

The real highlight of the movie is how the director manages to sprinkle in little moments of ridiculous but intellectual argument. The French cops reprimanding Ben for flying a mini-helicopter around the Eiffel tower pause in their scolding to admire with Ben the influence the French Baron of Montesquieu had on the U.S. Constitution. In another scene, Ben stops at the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt to argue the historical details of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination with a young boy. The absurdities of such situations make for the true entertainment in this movie.

The clues that the world and all of time are more ridiculous than ever, and even the pretty scenery can't make up for lackluster dialogue. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" manages to elicit delight and laughter, but still doesn't measure up to the first.

"National Treasure: The Book of Secrets" is rated PG, for some violence and action. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Monica Wei. Monica is an unfortunate piece of fruit that has been suspended in a gelatin cup. Okay, not really, but sometimes she feels like one. Monica the strawberry chunk enjoys reading, sitting in trees and watching the clouds go by. She thinks that anything tastes good … More »

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