*** (out of 5)
November 19, 2004
Nicolas Cage BEN GATES
Diane Kruger as ABIGAIL CHASE
Justin Bartha as RILEY POOLE
Sean Bean as IAN HOWE
Jon Voight as PATRICK GATES
Harvey Keitel as SADUSKY
Christopher Plummer JOHN ADAMS GATES
Directed by: John Turteltaub
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes movie marketing can really help hype a film. Disney did it incredibly well as they spent more than a year hyping the current hit “The Incredibles.” However, sometimes it tends to fall flat, which is what I think happened to “National Treasure.”
I was talking with a friend of mine at a screening for a different film last week, and I made the comment that I didn’t think “National Treasure” measured up to last year’s Jerry Bruckheimer hit for Disney, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” And my friend jumped on my case about it.
“A movie like ‘Pirates’ is exceptional,” he explained. And it’s just not fair to take another movie and hold it up against it because it’s really no contest.
You know what? He’s right.
Going in to see “National Treasure,” I couldn’t help but compare it to “Pirates” simply because that’s something you just cannot escape in the advertising. But like this year’s “King Arthur,” it is a far cry from the exceptional pirate movie from last summer. But that doesn’t mean that “National Treasure” doesn’t have things about it that make it good.
When I first saw the trailers for “National Treasure,” I thought it would probably be awful. Of course, the film is far from perfect, but what do you expect from the director of “3 Ninjas.” After letting the movie percolate in my brain, I found myself looking back on it rather fondly.
In some ways, the filmmakers try to make “National Treasure” into a modern American version of the Indiana Jones films. In that respect, it fails, but that’s a tough act to follow. In fact, it’s doubtful whether the perpetually upcoming “Indiana Jones 4” is even going to stack up to its own legacy.
Rather, “National Treasure” is more like a grown up version of “The Goonies.” Oh, it’s more cohesive than “The Goonies,” and Diane Kruger is far more pleasant to look at than Martha Plimpton. But the films had a similar feel.
For any Art Bell listening, “X-Files” watching conspiracy theorist out there, the concept of hidden meanings placed in national symbols by the Masons is nothing new. The unfinished pyramid with the all-seeing eye is enough to spark a lecture from even the casual paranoid kook. But I’ve been surprised that it’s taken this long for Hollywood to work these theories into a big-budget action flick.
Nicolas Cage stars as Ben Gates, the last in the bloodline of patriots sworn to keep safe a hidden treasure that dates back to the days of the Knights Templar. However, Gates has somewhat fallen from grace and is helping a greedy industrialist (Sean Bean), who wants to find the treasure for himself.
Clues to the location of this treasure are found in some of the most significant items of American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell and the 100 dollar bill. After being almost killed by his former partner, Gates strikes out on his own to protect the treasure.
The chemistry between Cage and his co-star Diane Kruger, who plays a curator at the National Archives, is really forced. Cage’s performance hits quite a few rough spots as he and director Jonathan Turteltaub try to decided whether he’s recreating his role from “Face/Off” or “The Rock.” However, these low points are held together nicely by a healthy amount of action and chases. And the clues always kept me guessing without making me roll my eyes too much.
Both Jon Voight and Harvey Keitel have small roles in this film, and they are really only notable for how bad they look in the movie. Voight’s blotchy complexion makes him look like he just underwent exfoliation treatments, and Keitel looks like he may have dipped into the plastic surgery till a little too much.
When all is said and done, the main cast is overshadowed by Justin Bartha, who plays Gates’ nerdy sidekick. Where the main stars stumble with the comic relief, Bartha is dead-on and hilarious. They should have just left him with all the good lines.