Monday, May 16, 2005

MOVIES: National Treasure

I expected National Treasure to be kind of dopey, and so I was able to enjoy it on those terms. I mean, the Freemasons have hidden the biggest treasure in the world and written clues to finding it on the back of the Declaration of Independence? Either you know going in that you're going to have to play along with some ridiculous scenarios, or you just don't bother renting the movie in the first place.

Nicolas Cage is his usual action hero, with his strengths more in his intelligence and self-confidence than his combat abilities -- I don't think he's involved in a single fight scene in this film, although he is in a number of chase scenes. He's a little more of a brazen wisecracker than the brooding man-on-the-edge he generally seems to play in these kinds of films, perhaps because it's more of a kid's adventure movie than anything else. Sean Bean looks like he's having fun in another bad guy role, and Jon Voight, as Cage's father, is also entertaining. Diane Kruger is a pretty blonde, and that's about it. She falls in love with Cage because the script suddenly decides that she should; the romance is laughable in its abrupt materialization. Harvey Keitel surprisingly appears as well, pretty much just to collect a paycheck.

The Freemason/Knights Templar thing was timed to cash in on the hoopla over The Da Vinci Code, and it's just as ludicrous here as it is in that book, and every other incarnation of the myth, but it doesn't come across as obnoxious here because instead of going with the hard-sell -- no, really, this is all true!! -- it's simply used as a springboard for a light action romp, if you will forgive me for using the word romp. And the action works; the set pieces, such as the theft of the Declaration of Independence, or the journey down the bottomless (well, for all intents and purposes) pit leading to the treasure vault, are well-constructed, competently directed (you can actually see what's happening, which is more and more a rarity in action films), and entertaining.

It's a diversion. There's no compelling reason to seek out National Treasure, but if you're at the video store and you're out of ideas, this will do the job. You could do much, much worse.

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