Back Shelf Beauties
Be as skeptical as you want to be about the plot, the star or the producer, but National Treasure is a winner.
Cage stars as Benjamin Franklin Gates - an adventurer seeking a legendary treasure. According to a story told by his grandfather, John Adams Gates (Christopher Plummer), their family is linked to a massive collection of riches and historical artifacts dating back to ancient times. The treasure was handed down in secrecy over the years until the Free Masons brought it to America during the colonial age, and hid it from the British during the Revolutionary War, never to be seen again.
Gates has been searching high and low across continents and oceans lead by cryptic clues, all the while being ridiculed by academia and his own father, Patrick (Jon Voight). Finally, he and his team discover an ancient ship hidden below the Arctic ice holding a clue that indicates a map to the treasure is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. With his lifetime goal, and possibly billions of dollars worth of gold and treasure, close at hand, Gates' financer, Ian (Sean Bean), turns on him leaving the adventurer and his trusty sidekick, Riley (Justin "My Career Survived Gigli" Bartha), for dead.
Can Gates and Riley find a way out of this predicament and get to the Declaration of Independence before Ian? Is there a map on the back? Does it lead to the treasure? Does the treasure exist?
Doesn't this movie's plot sound like some educational movie that's supposed to trick kids into learning because they made a game of it? You can almost read the back of the DVD's cover as it proclaims, "your kid learns about American history as he or she travels with Benjamin Franklin Gates to important moments in our country's battle for independence" and some kids are sitting there with big goofy grins on their faces as their mother looks on adoringly. Mock as we must, I can't help but tell you National Treasure is part Indiana Jones, part CSI, and all Jerry Bruckheimer-style fun. It's an exciting movie with plenty of twists and turns, and some very good laughs along the way.
Director Jon Turteltaub, with some inspiration from Bruckheimer, uses CSI-type editing and camera work to show us the cool heist plan and the scientists using their skills to unveil clues all mixed with standard action sequences that we know and love (the dangerous car chase, the roof top chase, the chase through the crowded city square, people do plenty of chasing in this movie). When focused on the pursuit, National Treasure is very engaging and provides a good mystery for all of us to follow. Turteltaub and writers Cormac and Marianne Wibberly get into trouble with the love story.
Barely in the movie, but always present because you know this team can't resist a plot device beaten to death with overuse since the beginning of time, the blossoming romance between Gates and a National Archives expert, Dr. Chase (Diane Krueger), is about as exciting, thrilling and steamy as dinner with your grandmother. Cage is able to keep up his end of the bargain with quick-witted one-liners delivered with his unique mix of charm and weirdness, but Krueger STINKS. She's stiff, has a forced and labored delivery that takes the sexiness out of the dialogue like I take donuts out of Krispy Kreme, and shares no chemistry with her leading man. He's playing major league ball, while she is faking her way through with a nice body and shiny blonde hair (by the way, no one who works at the National Archives looks like her). She single-handedly brings National Treasure down a peg.
Sadly, Krueger is not the only actor who fails. Harvey Keitel comes stumbling on screen as the FBI agent chasing after Gates, but he seems out of it. What was Keitel thinking? We know he's a great actor, but he comes off as a bumbling, doddering old man in this movie, instead of matching Gates in some intellectual challenge. I can't fully blame him, since he must have had some direction from Turteltaub, but Keitel didn't perform up to his usual standards.
Turteltaub and the Wibberlys could have had a very cool ending, twice, but they extend the movie a bit too long, and finally went for an ending I think is too common in movies today (after you see the movie, send me an e-mail at email@example.com and we can talk about it). However, National Treasure is a movie you can see and enjoy.
3 Waffles (Out Of 4)
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