2004-12-03 / Columnists

‘National Treasure’ – A Man In Search of Suspense And History MovieScope

By Robert Snyder

The worst thing you could say about a Jerry Bruckheimer action thriller is that it’s boring. Yet, three of my children (aged 11 through 16) said just that after viewing the veteran producer’s newest film, “National Treasure.”

The problem is that by combining “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” with “The Da Vinci Code,” Bruckheimer, director John Turteltaub and an arsenal of writers have sunk their ship in a sea of exposition disguised as “clues” to the whereabouts of the world’s greatest hidden plunder. As third-generation treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates, cross-eyed-with-confusion Nicholas Cage repeatedly brings the action to a dead stop to do some deductive reasoning. His conclusions keep moving us to another American landmark and the next clue. Gates’ jaded father Patrick (Jon Voight) sums the situation up perfectly, “There is no treasure, just clues.” Through most of the 131-minute movie, that appears to be the case.

Still, the crazy concept that our Founding Fathers left a string of secret messages on currency, landmarks and artifacts (including the Declaration of Independence itself) is intriguing. However, this is one Bruckheimer movie where a couple of added car chases would have awakened audience members.

The film opens on the Artic Circle with Gates and his intrepid crew uncovering a frozen frigate carrying an all-important smoker’s pipe. With the pipe in possession, evil English colleague Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and henchmen break ranks with Gates and his wisecracking sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha). The mutiny triggers the film’s centerpiece, a race to steal the famous Declaration. Into the mix comes beautiful National Archives conservator Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger of “Troy”), who finds herself part of Gates’ gang as well as his new girlfriend.

For those wanting their kids exposed to American historical sites up and down the east coast, “National Treasure” may be educational. But be careful that they don’t take the “facts” as gospel. Otherwise, they might start believing in the Da Vinci code.

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