National Treasure â€“ Book of Secrets is one of those slight, improbable, but good-hearted Saturday-matinee-serial adventure movies, kind of like what Indiana Jones started off being before George Lucas got all clunky and serious. An almost A-list cast (Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren â€“ good lord, Helen Mirren? She must have had the rent coming due, or something! â€“ Harvey Keitel and Ed Harris, backed up by also-rans Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha) delivers their lines with a fair degree of conviction and wit, which if it doesnâ€™t sparkle with a brilliant diamond shine at least does not flop to the ground, vaguely embarrassing us all for the characters who have to mouth them.
The plot is one of those which becomes even more wildly improbable the more you think about it, and the more you know of history; Queen Victoria a Confederate sympathizer? A secret and so far unnoticed message cast into the model for the Statue of Liberty? Secret and so far undiscovered passages underneath Mount Vernonâ€™s gardens? And a whole watery subterranean Olmec/Aztec city of gold underneath Mount Rushmore, a good many miles to the north of their known cities and strongholds? (Donâ€™t know how they passed up a chance to have water gush out of Washingtonâ€™s nose; I guess director Jon Turteltaub will distain the obvious, on occasion.) But it is an amusing family ride as long as you donâ€™t think about it too much, and the locations â€“ Paris, London, Washington and the Black Hills of South Dakota are superb.
The extras are generous, and included on a separate disc; the usual blooper collection of blown lines and crackups, a collection of deleted scenes with a commentary from the director outlining, usually with some regret, why they were eliminated from the final cut, and a couple of production features; the best and most fascinating of these is about the Library of Congress, itâ€™s workings and ways, and the very real national treasures archived within. The historical feature about the Knights of the Golden Circle (who were a real organization, with fortunes which became fatally entwined with the Confederacy) was woefully sketchy. I think producers missed a chance in constructing the extra features, to expand on the various historical points touched on in the movie: the assassination of Lincoln, the desk made from the timbers of HMS Resolute, etc.
â€œNational Treasure 2 â€“ Book of Secretsâ€ will be available May 20th, from Amazon.com and other retail outlets.
Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book â€œTo Truckeeâ€™s Trailâ€ is available here. Her next work, the Adelsverein Trilogy will be available in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com