National Treasure

"Bad"

National Treasure Review


Let's skip right over the fact that "National Treasure" may well have the most asinine plot in the history of cinema. But for the record, it's an action-adventure yarn from "dumb it down and blow things up" producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and it's about an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence leading to a vast, multi-billion-dollar treasure buried by the Founding Fathers. So I think the "you've got to be kidding" factor pretty much speaks for itself.

Instead let's marvel at how a trio of hack writers (collectively responsible for "Snow Dogs," "The 6th Day" and "I-Spy"), coupled with a director whose best work is mediocre and pedestrian (Jon Turteltaub of "Phenomenon" and "Instinct"), can take this dumb idea and make it even worse in every conceivable way.

First they contrived to have a series of barely coherent clues to the treasure's location appear in laughably cryptic little poems and in the design of the $1 and $100 bills. Then they concocted an eccentric, nerdy-cool, disgraced-historian lead character named Benjamin Franklin Gates, who arbitrarily solves each esoteric riddle within three minutes of discovering it. These lead him closer and closer to digging up the treasure -- even though he says all he wants to do is protect it. (If it's been safely hidden for centuries, why not leave well enough alone?)

Turteltaub's next order of business was bad casting. Nicholas Cage, having misplaced his dignity (again), plays Gates by schlepping through roughly the same quirky action-hero mannerisms as he did in Bruckheimer's 1996 explosion-fest "The Rock." Cage is joined by Justin Bartha (last seen in "Gigli," doing a community theater rendition of Dustin Hoffman's "Rain Man" character), who plays the inevitable Snarky Sidekick, and by Diane Kruger (the utterly forgettable Helen of last summer's "Troy") as a skeptical National Archives historian in a low-cut dress. She gets dragged along on Gates' adventure so he has someone to grab and kiss before acts of derring-do.

Throw in an all-purpose villain (Sean Bean, a veteran of such roles), add a few implausible action set pieces (to "protect" the Declaration from the baddies, Gates steals it himself in an absurdly simple high-tech break-in), and mix in a paint-by-numbers chase scene (with Washington, D.C. monuments visible in every single background regardless of location). Pepper the whole mess with witless one-liners, drag it out to 125 minutes, and -- abracadabra! -- another harebrained blockbuster.

But "National Treasure" is even more inane than most prefabricated products from the Bruckheimer assembly line because if its characters had any sense, the movie would be over after 30 minutes. As soon as Kruger realizes the map on the stolen Declaration's backside is for real -- and therefore Gates is telling the truth -- there's no reason not to return the parchment, help her department solve the mystery, and have the baddies rounded up. The longer these two follow increasingly ridiculous clues while running from both Bean and the FBI, the worse the movie gets.

Few action flicks bother being crafty and creative enough to genuinely earn the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy them, but this one seems to go out of its way to be idiotic -- so much so that it can't even answer the most basic questions about its plot.

How did the cash-strapped American Revolutionaries got their hands on all this loot (in gold and ancient artifacts) in the first place? Why (and how) would they build an airplane-hanger-sized temple six stories underground to store it instead of a) putting it in museums, or b) selling it to fund their rebellion against the British?

If you're smart enough to wonder such things (clearly the filmmakers weren't), you're far too smart to waste two-plus hours watching "National Treasure."



National Treasure

Facts and Figures

Run time: 131 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th November 2004

Box Office USA: $173.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $347.5M

Budget: $1000 thousand

Distributed by: Buena Vista

Production compaines: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Junction Entertainment, Saturn Films, Walt Disney

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 75 Rotten: 94

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Benjamin Franklin Gates, as Abigail Chase, as Ian Howe, as Patrick Henry Gates, as Sadusky, as Riley Poole, as John Adams Gates, as Shaw, as Thomas Gates, as Powell, as Shippen, Stephen A. Pope as Phil, as Agent Dawes, as Agent Johnson, as Agent Hendricks, as Agent Colfax, as Butcher Lady, Alexandra Balahoutis as Clothing Store Clerk, Dior Raye as Gift Store Clerk, Antony Alda as Guard Ferguson, Terrence Currier as Charles Carroll, John Travis (VII) as Guard Mike

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