National Treasure: Book of Secrets
It says here on the wall, “For a good time, call your mother.”

Theatrical Release Date: 12/21/2007
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Ed Harris, Helen Mirren, Harvey Keitel

Before I get to talking about Nic Coppola’s latest feature film, I have to get a little rant out of my head. Attached to the print of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is a Disney cartoon featuring Goofy, one of my all time favorite characters. When I saw that there was a cartoon, I got very excited as it reminded me of fairer days and $1 movies at my university theater.

However, the subject of the cartoon quickly evaporated any goodwill and got me a wee bit agitated, to say the least. You see, the cartoon is about Goofy getting a high-tech home theater system so he can watch the big football game. Yes, the cartoon is actually a commercial trying to subtly tempt those who haven’t splurged on a big screen flat panel HDTV and all the bells and whistles that can be attached.

What a load of bullshit! Sure, I know Disney is much more about the money than the kids, especially these days, but to attach a cartoon featuring the lovable Goofy to a film that has no relatable element and is only meant to get people to buy more crap is insulting. Way to go and tarnish one of my favorite childhood icons, Disney. Bravo.

Getting back to the matter at hand: As per usual for the Hollywood movie machine, if a film makes a lot of money, there’s sure to be a sequel in the works. Enter “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” wherein the director and cast have reunited to spin another fantastic tale mixing historical facts with fiction in order to search for long lost treasure.

Now, as much as I can be a cynic when it comes to these kinds of films, I will admit that I enjoyed the first “National Treasure”. It had a nice mix of food, fantasy and fun … wait, that’s not right … I think that’s the slogan for a strip joint in the Midwest … okay, so it had humor, a bit of clever (yet fairly simple) puzzle elements and Diane Kruger (feel free to call me at home anytime, day or night).

In the second film of the franchise (and thanks to it’s big box office take so far, don’t be shocked if they decide to take a third dip into the pool – Atlantis, anyone?), the crux of the story is that the Gates family’s legacy has been besmirched. Crafty Ed Harris purports that Cage and Voight’s ancestor was a traitor who helped plan the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – who is not only our 16th President but in the documentary, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, he showed us all how to party.

Of course, the family Gates (this time joined by Helen Mirren as Voight’s ex-wife) must come to the defense of their good name and as Elizabeth is so fond of saying, “the game is afoot!” Actually, the game is more like a treasure hunt spanning two continents, still with Kruger’s hotness but with puzzles even simpler than the first film.

Therein lies my first problem with the film. At least the first effort in the series seemed to have it all laid out. This one almost felt like they were making up the story as the movie progressed – What? We’ve come to a dead end? Hey, what if there’s a clue here?!? Oi vey.

Also, as we are whisked away on the hunt for a mythical treasure, each new locale brought about another series of all-too clever setups ending in a quick getaway. The pacing of the film had me ready to change the channel about halfway through. Sadly, I didn’t have a remote that could change the reels in the projector with me.

And the worst element of the film is that there really isn’t a villain. How do you have a film where people are racing to find a treasure and not have some evil genius trying to outwit the lovable hero? Sure, Ed Harris sets things in motion but apparently he doesn’t really want to hurt people and goes from bad to good faster than it took for Audrey Hess’ newest husband to get up and urinate all over the theater restroom’s floor.

Well, based on all of this, surely this film will be plunged into ratings hell, you say? You’re on the right track but it’s not quite as bad as I’ve made it out to be. Yes, there are plenty of things the film could tighten and one last script revision might not have been a bad idea. However, the cast is decent and their ability to seem like they were having fun, along with a few interesting historical tidbits, allowed me to keep the razor blade in my pocket and away from my wrists.

There’s just enough in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” to rise up to a 2 out of 5. If you liked the first film, this is worth a rent on DVD or a viewing once it hits the boob tube. It’s not something you absolutely have to see in theaters so if you’re headed that way, try another film instead (may I suggest “Atonement“?, currently at a theater near you).

Also, if any of you know someone involved with Disney animation, please let them know to stop ruining my childhood with asinine and offensive commercials disguised as innocuous entertainment. Thanks.