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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (review)

It’s not like the Indiana Jones movies were exactly deep and impenetrable: so why do we need Indiana Jones for Dummies? Why do we need a second one? There are very cool concepts at play here — a fabled lost Indian city made entirely of gold, the hidden conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln, and all sorts of neat-o clues to neat-o treasures hidden all over the planet in the neat-o-est places imaginable, like Buckingham Palace and the Oval Office. So why is it all so dull? Why does it all feel like a video game aimed at little kids, maybe one meant to sneakily teach them some American history? Why does the whole third act feel like a series of attempts to create a theme park ride? (Why, if director Jon Turteltaub [Jericho] and screenwriters the Wibberleys [Bad Boys II] feel they must actually ape actual lines from Raiders of the Lost Ark, do they think they must be so actually literal about it? “Indy, why does the floor move?” C’mon, people: have a little respect for the audience.) Why does all the dialogue sound like this: “Let’s do this stuff here so we don’t die!”? Why does Nicolas Cage’s (Next) treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates lack all semblance of a personality? And why do I suspect that Ed Harris (Gone Baby Gone) only agreed to appear in this junk because they let him play the villain… and that he ended up real pissed off that even the villain turned out to be so boring?


MPAA: rated PG for some violence and action

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • I always thought the Stephen Sommers’ “Mummy” series was “Indiana Jones for Dummies.”

    (And this from someone who still has a soft spot for the first movie.Damn you, Rachel Weisz!)

  • MaryAnn

    Compared to *National Treasure* the *Mummy* movies are *Citizen Kane.*

  • Shadowen

    Was I hallucinating or was Helen Mirren actually in this junker?

  • PaulW

    My parents want to go see this movie on Christmas Day.

    Thank you thank you thank you for coming up with a review that will allow us to go see a special showing of Manos: Hands of Fate instead. ;)

  • MaryAnn

    Helen Mirren is in this movie.

    I hope they paid her a LOT.

  • amanohyo

    Paul, where and what time is the showing of Manos (Please tell me it’s in the DC area)?

  • amanohyo

    I guess my dreams of a Torgo Christmas will have to wait until next year… *sigh*

  • Lubby007

    MaryAnn, your deluded perspectives humor me, but this time it has gone too far. National Treasure: Book of Secrets wasn’t pure gold (far from it, really), but it achieved at least a “yellow light” in my book. Why? With a different set of writers, this movie still attains a decent blend of action (the car-chase scene, evading the police in the Library of Congress), adventure (piecing together the clues by capturing the President, traveling to “the City of Gold”), light humor (Riley’s dry comments, Abigail’s distractions in the White House), and it even contains juicy tidbits for historical buffs (‘nough said). But most of all, it is a movie that the whole family can enjoy. And that is why it will thrive at the box office. Let’s take the Bourne Ultimatum, for instance: in my opinion, it is the best action movie to ever hit the big screen, but would a mom really want her seven-year-old to go off and watch it? Disney has made sure that National Treasure 2 spans to a wide variety of audiences. Overall, the performances are spot-on, the genre mix that gives this movie a “kick” is delightfully delectable, and it’s a perfect family-oriented film to watch over the holidays! For die-hard fans and families, I give it a green light for sure; the rest can wait for it to come out on DVD, but I still advise you to go off and see it if you have a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do!

  • MaryAnn

    would a mom really want her seven-year-old to go off and watch it?

    Why is this a negative? Is it wrong to want movies that appropriate only for adults? Why must everything be appropriate for everyone?

    That said, there are plenty movies that are appropriate for the whole family — *Enchanted* comes to mind — that aren’t so fucking stupid that you want to kill yourself to escape them.

    But please, do tell me how I am “deluded.”

  • Lubby007

    “Why is this a negative? Is it wrong to want movies that appropriate only for adults? Why must everything be appropriate for everyone?”

    So you’re saying that it’s right for a little child to crave for all of the crap that can be found in a XXX flick? (Either this lady is suffering from a serious hangover, or she has some BIG problems to sort out!)

    “That said, there are plenty movies that are appropriate for the whole family — *Enchanted* comes to mind”

    Finally, your critiquing is accurate!

    “that aren’t so fucking stupid that you want to kill yourself to escape them.”

    Believe me, I was considering suicide just reading your review!

    “But please, do tell me how I am ‘deluded.'”

    Oh, this puts the cherry on the sundae for sure! How are you deluded? As Apu said in the Simpson’s Movie: “Look into your heart, and you will find the answer.” And speaking of the Simpson’s Movie, there’s a review that ranks up with your National Treasure: Book of Secrets review on the hare-brained meter!

  • Mat

    Book of secrets was a good movie, every bit as good as the original National Treasure. Good plot, lots of cool scenes. They did a good job. I would recommend others to go see it.

  • Lubby007

    Dry, yet oh so true.

  • MaryAnn

    So you’re saying that it’s right for a little child to crave for all of the crap that can be found in a XXX flick?

    Oh, please do explain how you came to that conclusion!

    Book of secrets [is] every bit as good as the original National Treasure.

    Well, that’s true. The first one was stupid, and this one is equally stupid.

  • Lubby007

    “Why is this a negative? Is it wrong to want movies that appropriate only for adults? Why must everything be appropriate for everyone?”

    Since MaryAnn can’t understand my intellect, let’s put this in easier terms, shall we? In that statement you’re basically saying that the MPAA rating system is completely useless: we should all be able to take a quick glance at some random movie and go out and see it without understanding how vulgar or coarse it might be. It’s like taking away a democracy from the movie business; everything would fall apart. We need to have the right to know what we’re seeing and which movies are appropriate for which crowds. Movies are only appropriate to limited crowds because of the rating system we set up. Therefore when you say and I quote: “Why must everything be appropriate for everyone?” you’re basically saying “Why must there be a rating system for movies; there is no point in it.” But please, hold your breath. Go get a degree. Go get some hard-based facts to back up your arugments. And most of all, go get a life.

  • JT

    Lubby007: I think MaryAnn’s point was that The Bourne Ultimatum is a movie for grownups, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    She never said that all movies should be for grownups.

    And she didn’t even come close to saying that we should get rid of MPAA ratings altogether. Where the hell did you get that from?

    “Why must everything be appropriate for everyone?”

    This means – Why can’t there be PG movies and PG-13 movies and R movies?

    Not only are you coming to ridiculous conclusions, but you’re showing your own ignorance and arrogance in trying to insult MaryAnn.

  • MaryAnn

    In that statement you’re basically saying that the MPAA rating system is completely useless: we should all be able to take a quick glance at some random movie and go out and see it without understanding how vulgar or coarse it might be.

    Truly breathtaking.

    And it doesn’t even address the idea of children craving porno, or my supposed approval of such.

  • Lubby007

    “Is it wrong to want movies that appropriate only for adults?”

    You’re blatantly questioning the moral principles of a little child wanting movies that “appropriate only for adults,” in which case we are speaking of the following ratings: R, X, XX, XXX. In this assertion you are clearly saying (or hinting at) the fact that it might, in fact, be right for a child to crave for the material that can be found in these sorts of movies, which it isn’t at all.

  • Rick

    Lubby – it’s been pointed out by more than one person that you are COMPLETELY misrepresenting what MaryAnn wrote. Either that, or you’re incapable of understanding the concept she’s trying to get across, which would explain why you’re such a big fan of dreck like “National Treasure”.

    So, let’s try one more time: being “family-friendly” does not, by itself, make a movie Good. MaryAnn was trying to point out that there is an *extremely* family-friendly movie that has been out for weeks – “Enchanted” – that has made less money than “Book of Stupidity” has made in 10 days, in spite of the fact that “Enchanted” is a MUCH better movie.

    I swear, when my fiancee and I first saw the preview for “Book of Secrets”, we could not stop laughing when Keitel explained to Cage that he was looking for the titular tome. It was so preposterous, such a piece of comedy gold – can you imagine if “the decider” heard about this?

    “Condi, why didn’t you tell me about the Book of Secrets? Isn’t this the kind of thing I should know about?”

  • Lubby007

    I saw Enchanted, damn it. And it was good. Very good. But you have to give National Treasure: Book of Secrets credit for trying to break new barriers, unlike Enchanted, which went with the same old hocus-pocus formula and somehow nailed it.

  • MaryAnn

    *National Treasure* breaks new barriers? It’s a half-assed aping of *Raiders of the Lost Ark,* which was itself aping (though in a far, far superior way), a genre that was half a century old (the action serial) at that point.

    Moving characters between live action and animation, though? That is hardly a “same old hocus-pocus formula.”

  • Gloria

    Why does the label “for adults” automatically mean “hardcore XXX pornography”?

  • MBI

    Ho ho, this is just me perhaps, but I think that Enchanted is exactly as stupid as National Treasure 2, and stupid about a much more important topic, love.

    But that’s just me rehashing old conversations. It amazes me how parents are so frightened of anything that would generate any kind of stimulation in their child’s mind. No, children must be sheltered from this horrible adult stuff, like “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Too adult! It must be family-friendly, which in most cases means insultingly stupid. What the fuck ever.

    For what it’s worth, “National Treasure 2” was less insulting than the original. Not by a lot, but that counts for something, right?

  • MaryAnn

    Why does the label “for adults” automatically mean “hardcore XXX pornography”?

    It’s interesting that some people think that, isn’t it? It’s emblematic, I think, of how dumbed down our entire culture has gotten: some people can’t conceive of anything grownup that isn’t pornography.

  • Lubby007

    You even said it yourself, MaryAnn: even if National Treasure 2 does poke at Raiders of the Lost Ark, doesn’t Enchanted poke at the Disney classics? This talk shall resume in the Enchanted archives.

  • Lubby007

    Oh, and one more thing I think I should clear up: it was our country that made a connection with the word “adult” and “pornography.” Adult arcades, adult bookstores, adult video stores…and you know what? Run as president, and you might be able to change that label to “child” bookstores, arcades, and video stores. That does make a lot of sense to the deluded of mind.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s it, Lubby, you’re banned. Your IP address has been noted, and all further comments from you will be deleted.

  • Vergil

    I saw Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse once…

  • Alicia

    I liked the movie (and the first one also), because it was simple and enjoyable… and it actually made me want to go pick up a history book (I think you’ve got something there, MaryAnn!!)! I do believe it’s inappropriate to say that this movie is an “Indiana Jones for Dummies” only because it is a family movie (and I’m no dummy, but a 4th year physics undergrad who likes Indiana Jones just the same). Yeah it’s predictable, but what do you expect, it’s a Disney movie. I’d suggest go see it on a night out with the family.

    Now, if you’re looking for a movie with an intricate plot, lots of suspense, and people pulling the hearts out of other people, then this is no the movie for you. Even though it doesn’t have all the above, I’d suggest seeing Sweeney Todd instead if it’s just you and a friend (why it’s not one of the top five in the box office, I’ll never know…).

  • MontyGirl

    “Indiana Jones for Dummies” is probably the best description of National Treasure I have ever read. The thing that annoys me the most about these movies is all the psuedo intelligence. I hear people talking all the time about how much they love National Treasure because it’s “fun” but you still “feel like you’re learning something”. National Treasure is now considered cerebral. God help us.

  • MaryAnn

    Since when does “family movie” have to mean “stupid”?

    *Ratatouille* is a Disney movie appropriate for the whole family. So are *Enchanted* and *Meet the Robinsons* and *The Bridge to Terabithia.* And those are only from this year (or, well, 2007, but you know what I mean). And they’re all clever and funny and even wise, under their surfaces.

    And then there’s:

    The Chronicles of Narnia
    The Lion King
    Pirates of the Caribbean
    Toy Story
    The Emperor’s New Groove
    The Incredibles
    Freaky Friday
    Holes

    I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point.

  • Well, at least you had the good sense not to add “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to that list, MaryAnn. :-)

  • MaryAnn

    It’s not a Disney movie. :->

    And no, it’s not smart. But it’s not totally dumb, either.

  • You want a real laugh, MaryAnn, go to the Libertas site and read some of the stuff they’re posting about this flick. Apparently if you hate this series you hate America.

    Which I can’t help but find ironic since this series’ view of American history (especially the first movie’s) is hardly as flattering to the Founding Fathers as one would think.

  • WriterGuy

    Wow, whoever this “Lubby” guy is, he’s got some big issues to sort out. Sheesh.

  • Hauke

    Hi. This dreck being now in its second week in Germany, I chose to ignore the better judgment of others and went to see it last week.
    Did I miss some important plot detail, or did this film not even try to give Ben (Franklin, no less!) Gates a convincing motive for his treasure hunt?

    What *exactly* did he prove by finding this City of Gold? How *exactly* is that supposed to show his great-(great?)-grandfather was not mixed up in a conspiracy?

    By the way, thanks for a great blog!

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