National Treasure: Book of Secrets

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National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Review (5/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

Every time I see Nicolas Cage in a film, I am reminded of an amusing conversation that I had with one of my brothers about what it must be like to be Nicolas Cage at a family reunion. We wondered whether he was looked upon as the “black sheep” of his family - the successful yet boorish relative that everyone merely tolerates.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether our amusing hypothesis is true, but one has to admit that Cage is a bit of an anomaly in a family that is the closest thing to Hollywood royalty. The nephew of Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and Oscar-nominated actress Talia Shire (Rocky), cousin to Oscar-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and award-winning actor Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), Nicolas Cage, with his lengthy resume of comedies and action films, seems to be something of a sellout by comparison.

That is not to say that the family “talent gene” has bypassed Nicolas Cage. He is, after all, an Oscar-winning actor himself (Leaving Las Vegas) and has another Oscar nomination under his belt (Adaptation). He has successfully conquered every film genre from action to drama, comedy to romance. He has the ability to open a film and generate box office traffic on par with actors such as Harrison Ford and Will Smith. But, in a family of artists, it seems to me that Nicolas Cage is like a package of ground beef in a freezer full of filet mignon.

After a year of box office highs (Ghost Rider) and lows (Next), Nicolas Cage ends the year on a high note with the release of National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Unless you have been distracted by visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, you are likely aware that Cage’s sequel to his 2004 hit film of the same name opened at the top of the box office with $45.5 million in domestic ticket sales. (By comparison, Next has earned a total of $64.5 million worldwide since its release in April.)

In National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Cage resurrects his role as treasure hunter Ben Gates. In this episode of the franchise, Gates embarks on a journey to clear the name of an ancestor who is accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In the process, he stumbles upon clues leading him to the whereabouts of a fabled City of Gold - but he quickly discovers that he is not alone in the pursuit of the secret treasure.

Also returning for the sequel are Diane Kruger as Abigail Chase, Justin Bartha as Riley Poole and Jon Voight as Gates' father, Patrick Gates. Helen Mirren, fresh from her Oscar win for The Queen, decides to go slumming and joins the cast as Gates' mother, Emily Appleton. Ed Harris, who has apparently abandoned all hope of an Oscar win after four nominations, has also decided to cross over to the “dark side” and joins the cast as the film’s antagonist, Mitch Wilkinson.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets has everything that film audiences have come to expect from an action/adventure film - a flimsy plot, pointless dialogue and implausible action sequences. This is a film that is beneath the talent of every single Oscar-nominated actor that lowered their standards to join this project (that includes you, too, Harvey Keitel). Helen Mirren should be kicking herself in the behind right now for declining an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth II because she was filming this movie.

That is not to say that National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a complete waste of film. For those of you who are seeking a mindless afternoon or evening of cinematic fluff, you could do worse than this film. It is a mildly entertaining action/adventure film with just enough thrills to hold the attention of fans of the genre, and just enough restraint (it is a Disney film, after all) that you can safely enjoy it with your children. Without a doubt, it is hamburger. But I suppose that we cannot expect to be served filet mignon every day.

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