Film — National Treasure (PG)

National Treasure (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Jerry Bruckheimer may very well be a genius, the best argument for which is National Treasure, his latest weightless action movie.

Genius, you ask? Really? The producer of  Armageddon and Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys II, three of the crappiest action  movies in recent memory, is a genius?

Yes. He is.

Sure, I could list all the overheated, overblown, overly-slick cheesefests heís been a part ofómovies that make you cringe until your neck spasms and grimace until your eyebrows not only meet but seem to cross. And, yes, I am remarkably underwhelmed with his mega hit television show, CSI. But I give ó Bruckheimer wins. Because no amount of lousy stops people from coming back for more. And because he has produced yet another movie that Iím sure droves of cineplex-goers will find it near-impossible to stay away from.

Why, you ask? Is National Treasure really all that good? Does it provide the escapist thrill that comes when big action, big budget and big stars collide? No. But who cares? National Treasure is mediocre perfection.

Allow me to explain. Letís say you have the misfortune of spending your upcoming holidays with extended family. These arenít your everyday family people, the spouses or siblings or parents that you can bully into seeing movies you actually like and are interested in. These are the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and friends of spouses that clutter up your precious days off with their different opinions and tastes. These are people that maybe donít like swearing or nudity or violence. Or maybe they donít like character development, complicated story arcs or scripts that are too talky. Or maybe their idea of a movie is 90 minutes of unadulterated explosions and fart jokes. Where ever you fall in the spectrum, chances are it will be very hard to please everybody. The solution? See a relatively inoffensive movie that neither embarrasses nor satisfies anyone. Personally, I would recommend The Incredibles but the animation aspect might turn some family members off, fearing that they would be in for a kidsí movie. So you get to the multiplex and you buy a fist full of tickets for National Treasure, a limited-violence, little-harsh-language, sex-free, squirm-free way to kill two hours of family time that could otherwise be spent talking.

Normally, I would instruct you to resist the urge, not give in, put your foot down. But, dude, talking to your family? See the bad movie, weíll all understand.

Actually, thatís not entirely fair. National Treasure isnít bad so much as itís just sub-satisfactoryóa poorly-argued, shoddily-researched history paper turned in with a really nice binding. Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) is, according to the movie, a smart guy full of lots of obscure history knowledge. Heís spent his life learning about Americaís forefathers because he believes their lives hold for him clues to a family mystery. According to the story his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) told him as a boy, the Gates hold an important key to finding the greatest treasure of all time. It began back on what looks like the set for The Mummy, when ancient Egyptian kings amassed a treasure of statues and sarcophaguses and, I donít know, doubloons. Over time, the great armies of the world conquered and reconquered the treasure like some golden, portable Poland until, much like Poland, the treasure vanished for centuries.

Then, around the time of some Monty Python-esque knights hard at work on a crusade, the treasure was rediscovered in all its dusty glory. But, and possibly this comes from wandering around in a desert for decades in search of a really old cup and a way to bump a bunch of Ottomans off their land, these knights did not decide to take their treasure to the First National Bank of the Dark Ages and turn all those precious knick knacks into castles and medieval bling. Instead, they form a club called the Knights Templar and decide to hide and protect the treasure, passing down clues to its whereabouts through elaborate clues and symbols that all seem a little like a primitive game of Dungeons and Dragons, only without the dice.

Eventually, the knights decide to update their image and become the freemasons and, like any good set of forward thinking people, pack up their treasure and their lodge memberships and head to the New World.

Once here, the freemasons, many of whom are founding fathers, hide the treasure from the British and leave behind a series of clues that, in round about fashion, let to other clues which lead to clues about the location of a map which will cryptically lead to the treasure.

Enter Gates. His great great great (possibly more greats) grandfather was a stable hand who heard the tale of the treasure from one of the last signers of the Declaration of Independence who was trying to reach the president of the United States with the tale but knew he would die before he could pass on the information. The clue he left with the ancestor Gates set generations of the family on elaborate treasure hunts up to the modern day when Benjamin , his assistant Riley (Justin Bartha) and a wealthy British backer are searching a semi-frozen Artic wasteland in search of a ship that, of course, holds a clue that leads the gang to believe that the map to this great treasure is written in invisible ink on the back of, wait for it, wait for it, the Declaration of Independence.

Gates, honest little history nut that he is, objects to stealing the Declaration solely for the purposes of study but evil, British Ian (Sean Bean) has no such scruples. Gatesí plan, therefore, is to beat Ian to the punch and steal the Declaration first.

As insane as this idea is, it works in Gates favor because not only does he get the Declaration but he also gets plucky blonde hostage Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), the curator at the National Archives.

And then the chase begins again to find the clues to read the map and, ultimately, the treasure.

See? Bad but vaguely attention-holding. Like a low-rent Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer plays out the adventure, the hokey patriotism and the predictable side-plot romance with a sort of mainstream mastery.

- Amy Diaz 

 
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH