Directed by: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Sean Bean, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Justin Bartha
Rated: PG for action violence and some scary images.
Parental Notes: This film is fairly innocuous for preteens, with little innuendo and fairly bloodless violence.
Jerry Bruckheimer is known for making a particular kind of action film, of which “Pirates of the Carribbean” was a stellar example. “Pirates” was a thrill ride, an unashamed good time. “National Treasure” is also a Bruckheimer movie, but it’s much closer to his earlier movies like “Armageddon” than it is to “Pirates.” It’s silly, makes almost no sense, and is clearly out to give you a good time without actually causing you to think. In fact, if you think much at all, it will probably ruin the movie for you.
Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) is the latest in a long line of treasure chasers. Ever since one of his ancestors received the last remaining clue to the location of the treasure of the Knights Templar, the Gates family has been pursuing the famed collection of wealth. The treasure, we learn, was hidden by the Templars and protected later by the Freemasons, to keep it safe. The founding fathers here in America hid it from the British so well that now nobody can find it because almost all the clues have been lost.
Ben is ditched rather spectacularly by Ian (Sean Bean), his partner and his chief investor when the clue they followed turns out to lead not to the treasure but just to another clue. The new clue says the map to the treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence, written in invisible ink. Ian leaves Ben to die and sets out to steal the Declaration and find the treasure himself. Ben and his sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha) escape and try to warn the authorities, but nobody believes them. They finally decide to steal it themselves.
Ben and Riley wind up with archivist Dr. Chase (Diane Kruger) on their side and must do their best to stay one step ahead of Ian. Things get more complicated when Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) is put on the case. It’s easy to figure out where this is going, and that’s part of the charm. This is a movie that is comfortably predictable, but still fun to watch because it’s clever in the ways it fills out the accepted stereotypes.
The effects are cool and the clues are crafty, requiring equal amounts of American History competence and suspension of disbelief to accept. “National Treasure” makes no bones about its purpose: this is a movie which strives to entertain and expects the audience to be polite enough to suspend their disbelief and not poke holes in the plot. Any application of intellect will reveal holes in the story a mile wide, but it’s enough fun that we can forgive the holes and just have a good time.