Wednesday, December 19, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007, Jon Turteltaub)

Pretty good fun, truth be told, mostly because the movie wholeheartedly embraces its ridiculousness. In fact, Book of Secrets is actually more enjoyable than its predecessor. It's certainly more outrageous, as the mystery takes the cast to some of the world's biggest landmarks- Buckingham Palace, The Library of Congress, Mounts Vernon and Rushmore- as well as taking on some pretty big game, like a conspiracy to kill Lincoln and a super-duper MacGuffin called the President's Book of Secrets. In my review of the original I derisively referred to it as "The Da Vinci Clone," but comparing Book to The Da Vinci Code movie makes for a study in contrasts. Think about it- if you're making an adventure/puzzle movie in which the heroes are trying to uncover ancient mysteries while jetting around the world, would you want it to be dour and humorless or light and fun? Book works where Code didn't because Da Vinci played the shadowy intrigues deadly seriously, whereas Book makes the right choice and kids them. Also, Cage has more fun this time around, whereas last time he was squarely in action hero mode and let sidekick Justin "Is This the Baywatch?" Bartha tell all the jokes. Sadly, Diane Kruger still mostly a wet blanket, although at least Helen Mirren and Ed Harris are along for the ride, to varying returns. And of course, best not to pay the story too much mind, especially not the weird thematic inconsistencies- OK, so it's fine for Cage to chuck a wooden artifact into the Thames to get the baddies off his tail, but not so much for Harris to burn a letter from Queen Victoria? But I did have a pretty good time, I must admit. Book of Secrets will never be mistaken for great cinema, but it'll certainly make a passable rental next spring. Rating: 5 out of 10.

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