National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets review by Drunky

If theres a plotline for a movie that cant miss with me its a treasure hunt. I eat it up. I love everything Indiana Jones. My favorite movie as a kid was Goonies a hunt for piratess treasure. And to be honest, Goonies is still in my top 20 movies of all time. Hell, to be really honest, its probably in my top 10. Ive owned a metal-detector, Ive panned for gold in Colorado, and Ive purchased more than one treasure-seeker magazine in my time. I havent done any of these things since my early teens but they all still sound like a good time to me. But in these more-practical and less-fantastical adult years I rely on Hollywood to give me my occasional treasure-hunt fix.

So I fill my crack pipe with National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. The story picks up with the characters a few years after we last saw them triumphant and super-rich at the end of the first film. Its a textbook Hollywood-type start to a sequel as all our heroes are conveniently kicked back to being chumps, so that they can build themselves up to champions again. Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) is estranged from his gal (Diane Kruger), so hes kicked out of the mega-mansion and living with his dad (Jon Voight) in a humble abode. The other team member: tech-whiz Riley (comic-relief Justin Bartha) has lost all his bucks to the IRS. To make matters worse for Ben Gates, some new information has just come out that points to his great-great-grandfather Thomas Gates as the likely lead-conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Ben sets out to clear his family name by trying to disprove this information and in the process finds himself on a hunt for one of the greatest treasures of all time.

Help me figure out how to use this wood.

Sounds like a slam-dunk storyline to me. Unfortunately, heres where director Jon Turteltaub steps on the gas with his eye on the finish line. Ive never seen a movie with so much plot combined with so little substance. Here are some of the storylines and sub-plots of this movie: the truth behind the Lincoln assassination, Ben Gates estranged relationship with Abigail, Bens dads estranged relationship with Bens mom, the plot to kidnap the U.S. President, the Presidential Book of Secrets that contains the truth on things like Area 51 and the Kennedy Assassination, bad-guy Wilkinsons (Ed Harris) quest for historical immortality, FBI agent (Harvey Keitels) renewed buddy-enemy relationship with Ben and his hunt to catch him, the history behind and hunt for the great treasure (which shall go unnamed for minor spoiler relief), and various puzzles to solve which take Ben and his companions to France and to England before returning to America for plenty more puzzles to solve. Can you imagine all this (and more) being played-out in an interesting manner in one two-hour movie? If you can, youve got an imagination that would weird-out Dr. Suess because it cant be done. All this stuff is crammed in, and sped through with no substance whatsoever.

Now, I dont have a problem enjoying a Disney adventure-romp thats meant to be a lot of flash, fun & tempo and not much else. But when you write substance checks, you gotta cash em. What youve got here are over-zealous writers who put together what wouldve made two or three good movies and the director had to slash it all down to one. But what needed to be done was to take out some of the sub-plots in their entirety. Bens dad & mom relationship thing? Gone! Every Harvey Keitel scene? Gone! There wouldnt have been any loss, and the remaining plotlines could have been expanded properly, or at least a little moreso. Keitel must have been particularly pissed/bummed by the way, because if you watch the DVD extras youll see that he had the bulk of what was to be his role totally cut out of the movie. What remained amounted to Look its Harvey Keitel! Remember him from the first movie? Yeah all these cuts would have to have been decided before they signed Keitel and Helen Mirren (Bens mom) to contracts, so chalk it up to bad planning.

But if you watch the DVD commentary, Turtletaub repeatedly defends the cuts (which if put back into the movie still wouldnt have been near enough). He repeatedly says I think movies are generally too long. Now, hes either a liar who is defending his filmmaking plus telling the studios which employ him what they like to hear or hes a dunce. Im going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume hes just a liar since some of his previous work is acceptable fare that is definitely not rushed like Phenomenon and While You Were Sleeping. If he really truly likes the mish-mashed end result of National Treasure 2, then I have to assume that when he goes to Burger King to have it his way he orders his burger with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, horseradish, tarter sauce, italian dressing, tabasco and barbeque sauce takes a big bite and exclaims mmmmm so many delicious flavors!!

The brain-trust: Jon thousand-mile-stare Turteltaub and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

And heres a hint Turteltaub when you make a movie where somebody is getting clues and solving puzzle after puzzle you have to at least give your audience a chance to say Gee whiz however are we going to figure this out? before the hero is already onto the next puzzle. This applies even when we wouldve had no chance of figuring it out. Otherwise its akin to sitting behind someone on the bus and watching them do a crossword puzzle when youre close enough to be able to see the answers hes writing-in but not close enough to see the clues. Negative fun.

I feel the need to say I have no problem with any of the cast in this movie. I like what Nick Cage brings to the table. Justin Bartha seems to be an untapped talent. Im an Ed Harris fan. And I think Keitel plays his role to perfection when hes not being cut out. What a mismanagement of resources.

Theres a big problem with the conclusion of the main plotline too which I cant go into for spoiler purposes. But for a beloved treasure-hunt movie I would have been cool with totally letting that go. But what I cant let go is terrible pacing that ruins the progression of the treasure hunt and sucks the magic out of the movie.


3 out of 10 Jackasses
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