National Treasure

It's so easy to make fun of mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. All his movies are basically the same. They are action extravaganzas with beautiful women, strapping men, explosions, car chases, one-liners, a score that mixes synthesizers and orchestral music (usually by Trevor Rabin or Hans Zimmer), and most importantly, utterly devoid of thought. Bruckheimer (Bad Boys II, King Arthur) is setting out to entertain, not to make people think. And unfortunately, most people want big and stupid, instead of something worthwhile. National Treasure takes an interesting idea, and then gives it a lobotomy in order to Bruckheimer-ize it. It is a mixture of The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones, with treasure hunter (or protector as he prefers) Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage, Matchstick Men, Adaptation) searching for a legendary hidden treasure amassed over centuries and passed down from the Knights Templars to the Freemasons.

His family carried the secret of the treasure for generations, passing it from father to son. Each generation searched in vain, following clues left by the founding fathers, but only Gates is going anywhere with the clues. The endless search disillusioned his father Patrick (Jon Voight, Superbabies, The Manchurian Candidate), and the two are now estranged. However, the beginning of National Treasure finds Gates, his quipping sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha, Gigli, Tag), and funder Ian Howe (Sean Bean, Troy, The Return of the King) discovering a ship buried in the Arctic Circle, and discover a clue that leads them to believe a map is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. The process that Gates goes through to decipher this clue is indicative of National Treasure as a whole. It is completely unbelievable, and laughable at how simplistic everybody distills the material.

Gates and Howe part ways bitterly, and now Gates believes he needs to steal the Declaration in order to protect it from Howe, who only wants the treasure. This leads them to Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger, Wicker Park, Troy), who scoffs at their assertions. She later becomes suspicious, and gets caught up in the chase when Gates does manage the impossible. Now, since she's one of the hottest PhDs working for the government, her curiosity for the treasure will allow her to join Gates in his quest, and the two will conveniently fall in love. So National Treasure now turns into multiple chase, with Gates going after the treasure, Howe going after Gates and the treasure, and FBI Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel, Red Dragon, The Grey Zone) chasing after Howe, Gates, and the Declaration.

At its core, National Treasure should be a thinking film. It would succeed if these extremely smart people took the time to decipher the clues and actually discover the treasure. Instead, director Jon Turteltaub (Disney's The Kid, Instinct) decides to speed everything up in the name of the ACTION MOVIE. Why is there such a rush to get this treasure? It's been successfully hidden for over two centuries. Why is Howe in such a rush? He is already rich to begin with. The leaps that Gates (what an idiotic name) makes are astounding, and work only because the script says so. There are an impressive five people credited with the screenplay and story, Jim Kouf (Taxi, Snow Dogs), Cormac and Marianne Wibberly (Bad Boys II, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle), Oren Aviv (Rocket Man), and Charles Segars. There are some real stinkers in their resumes. Nevertheless, National Treasure is entertaining in its own way, by creating a nice fantasy story and imbuing just enough thought behind the plot to make it plausible, and moves quickly enough so people don't have time to think. But it's still stupid.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG for action violence and some scary images.

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