National Treasure: Book of Secrets (PG) ★★★

Review Date: December 21st, 2007

With just as many locales, historical landmarks and secret codes as the original, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is just as much implausible fun.


Who would have thought there'd be so much secret buried treasures in this fine country of ours? Thank goodness we have treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) on the case. It's been a few years since he and his crew discovered the Knights Templar treasure beneath the streets of New York, but it looks like a new treasure hunt is afoot. It all starts when a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, accusing Ben's great-great-grandfather as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's death. In order to clear his family's name, Ben must rummage through the Queen's desk at Buckingham Palace, kidnap the President of the United States, and get his hands on the fabled Book of Secrets with all of our nation's deep dark ones--AND get his acrimoniously divorced parents (Jon Voight and Helen Mirren) in the same room together--just so he can find one of the world's most elusive treasures: the ancient Native American "City of Gold." Hunting along with him once again is his trusted--now broke--friend Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and estranged girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who, honestly, were just waiting for another cool adventure to pop up so they could take a break from their ordinary lives.


It's always better in a Nic Cage actioner when he doesn't ham it up. Ben Gates is a perfect alter ego for the actor--whip-smart, a little nerdy but adorably inquisitive and relentless in his pursuit of ancient artifacts, or to clear his family's name, or whatever the case may be. I guess you could call him a modern-day Indiana Jones, minus the fedora and whip. Voight, too, doesn't have to overplay it as Ben's dad, Patrick, and can feel proud to have his name attached to the movie (unlike, say, Bratz or Anaconda). As for the lovely Mirren, you half-expect her to show up at Queen Elizabeth II when Ben is in Buckingham Palace, but alas, the Oscar winner just gets to sit back and have fun as Ben's mom, a professor of Native American culture (yes, she comes in handy). Kruger's Abigail is still blonde, spunky and protecting historical documents. But it's Bartha as electronics expert Riley who steals nearly every scene he is in with one snarky line after another. My personal favorite: "So let's recap: We've broken into Buckingham Palace, and the Oval Office, stolen a page from the President's super-secret book, and actually kidnapped the President of the United States. What are we gonna do next, short-sheet the Pope's bed?"


Good thing director Jon Turteltaub stumbled upon this goldmine franchise or he might be stuck making sequels to Disney's The Kid. Much like the Indiana Jones series, what makes the National Treasure movies fun are their sense of adventure, the code-breaking--and the American history slant. They speak not only to the treasure hunters who crave excitement but also to the History Channel buffs. It's a combination that works. Of course, Book of Secrets is just as wildly far-fetched as the original National Treasure, but Turteltaub keeps things moving at a good clip, so you don't mind suspending disbelief. Actually, you might want to jot down some notes--you know, just in case there might be a sliver of truth. Then again, that might be something the filmmakers don't want you to do. With the climactic ending at a famous American landmark (won't give it away), they keep it pretty vague exactly where Ben and the gang are looking for the treasure. I'm sure the peeps wouldn't appreciate amateur treasure seekers flocking to the landmark to look for the City of Gold. Oh, and if Book of Secrets makes the piles of cash it should, look for a third installment, hinted at at the end of this one.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.