“Maybe one day I’ll wear this [tuxedo] to a party I was actually invited to.”
Nicolas Cage teams up for the fifth time with popular producer Jerry Bruckheimer in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. This adventurous film brings history to life with entertaining scenarios that sustain a fast pace. Overall, this entertaining movie manages to satisfy with some clever problem-solving and likeable characters.
Oscar winner Cage returns as Ben Gates, a good-hearted treasure seeker motivated by personal vindication instead of riches. You would think the government would just hire the amazing Ben to solve all the nation’s secrets by now. Again, a special historical document holds the key to information that Ben will reach great lengths to achieve. Ben’s honorable motives are backed by unrelenting intelligence, which mostly flows well through the story, but seems forced at times. Ben’s adventures also involve his family, played by Oscar winners Jon Voight (father) and Helen Mirren (mother).
Voight plays the supportive yet weary father Patrick while Mirren provides more insight into the family as the studious Emily. Their love relationship, based on “excitement, adrenaline, and tequila” doesn’t really click, but they do have a few sweet scenes together. Another actor who should have an Oscar, Ed Harris (Apollo 13), plays Mitch Wilkinson, a mostly forgettable antagonist who initially seeks to discredit the Gates family name. He matches Ben’s clever exploits with seemingly endless resources and quick transportation capabilities, played out well in a memorable London car chase.
Justin Bartha again provides the comic relief plays Ben’s wise cracking partner in “crime” Riley Poole. He gets plenty of great one liners, though other comedy segments are forced and predictable. Actress Diane Kruger (Troy) plays Ben’s love interest Abigail Chase. She joins the adventure as their relationship develops. Bruce Greenwood (I Robot) also has a reprisal role playing the President, which he also did in the John F. Kennedy film Thirteen Days. Ty Burrell (Back to You television series) plays Connor, a White House curator who conveniently factors into the story. Harvey Keitel reprises his role as government agent Sadusky and country singer Randy Travis makes a cameo appearance.
The screenwriting team of Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (I Spy) keep their winning entertainment formula. If you’re thinking throughout the film (which you probably can’t stop), then you won’t be overly stressed or even surprised. Audience interest swells with interesting information involving the KGC, the Statue of Liberty and the origin of the phrase “my name is mud” plus puzzling phrases like “cloudless rain.” The story makes you want to crack open a history reference book as soon as you get home or at the very least start some interesting conversations.
Story contributions from Bruckheimer’s “go to” screenwriting team – Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (Pirates of the Caribbean) – inject some nice comedy and sharp dialogue. Unfortunately, previews take away one of the best jokes. Disney mainstay Jon Turtletaub (Phenomonon, Cool Runnings) again takes the reins as director/producer. Filmmakers wisely downplay the physical challenges Ben’s team face against Mitch’s goons, while boosting great verbal exchanges. For example, Ben and Abigail get more gems (like the clothes store scene in the previous installment) beginning in London, after an awkward beginning. “If I answer a question quickly, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong”, Ben says to Abigail during their verbal tennis match.
Romance, humor, and low stress drama entertain throughout a long 135 minute run time. Recommended with reservations and rated PG for action violence, this is a formulaic, yet enjoyable and surprisingly educational movie, especially for younger audiences.