Film: 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets'; Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris; Director: Jon Turtletaub; Rating: * (out of 5 stars)
All films expect a certain degree of willing suspension of disbelief from the audience. But 'National Treasure: Book Of Secrets' expects total suspension of disbelief.
Not even a stellar cast and a big budget are enough to salvage this 'National Treasure' sequel. It seems all the people involved in this movie put in very little in terms of thought or effort.
Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is confronted one day by Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), who claims that Cage's ancestor was one of the conspirators in President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
So Gates sets out to clear his family name with the help of his woman Abigal Chase (Diane Kruger), the unsuccessful author and tech wiz Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), his father Patrick (Jon Voight) and mother Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren). They have to find a fabled city of gold to absolve the family of its shame.
If this is not contrived enough, our heroes find themselves being chased in London, Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore. To top it, Ben has to kidnap the current US president to get some information from a secret book that is passed down from one president to the next. But the president doesn't seem to mind too much and all turns out well.
The movie at times feels like a mix of Hardy Boys and a video game. The actors are given absolutely nothing to work with and it is a shame to see such talent wasted.
Nicolas Cage is considered one of the finest actors of his generation, along with Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr. Helen Mirren has just won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in 'The Queen'; Voight, beside being the father of Angelina Jolie has actually starred in some classic movies like 'Coming Home' and 'Midnight Cowboy'.
Despite such a cast, 'National Treasure' makes it clear in the very first minutes that watching it is not going to be an intellectual exercise. It becomes really tiresome when the plot takes unrealistic twists. We shouldn't have to work so hard to enjoy a movie.
Another weakness is the way the movie distances us from being involved in solving the mystery. The problems are simplified but we are not given enough to try and figure out, along with the protagonists. The original, 'National Treasure' allowed this. The sequel could have been more engaging.
The saving grace of the movie is the budget. Walt Disney Production clearly had a lot of money to spend and it shows in the locales and action sequences. But the action is flat and mostly noisy, with no thrills.
The characters are at the mercy of a weak script and there is absolutely no chemistry between the two couples. They bicker and fight, but the heat is missing.
The original movie, 'National Treasure', surprised everyone when it did well at the box office and it is clear that this sequel is riding on the original's coattails. Those who enjoy the Hardy Boys or the 'Indiana Jones' series may be satisfied to some extent by this movie, even if at times it makes you hungry for much more.