I can’t say I am shocked I liked National Treasure: Book of Secrets, but I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. It took them three years to make a sequel, and it took just about as long for me to begin enjoying the first film. When National Treasure was released back in 2004 I gave it a “C-” due to the predictability of the film and its inability to offer up any kind of real tension. Since that time I have come to enjoy the film on DVD for its mindless action and the mere fact that I don’t have to think for a second to try and enjoy it. I went into Book of Secrets prepped for more of the same, and in doing so I enjoyed the hell out of it.
The plot is quite simple, the Gates family, Ben (Nic Cage) and his father Patrick (Jon Voight), must set out to clear Ben’s great-great grandfather’s name as a new piece of historical evidence has just been revealed insinuating that he may have been the key conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln. The new material was brought to light by a man named Mitch Wilkinson played by Ed Harris and as it happens Wilkinson was never concerned in anything more than getting the Gates family involved in a treasure hunt in search for the City of Gold. The plot was to use them to get the information he needed, but as it turns out the City of Gold may not only make them rich, but it will also clear the family name.
The cheesy plot particulars begin instantly as Ben and his flame from the last film Abigail (Diane Kruger) are no longer in love and are currently separated. On top of that, the comedy relief from the first film, Riley Poole played by Justin Bartha, has just written a book based on the finding of the Templar treasure from the first film, but he isn’t respected due to only being Ben’s “sidekick”. Of course all of these details come full circle and play directly into the plot just as you may have expected. Along with all that Helen Mirren is aboard as Ben’s mother and Harvey Keitel is back as FBI agent Sadusky. It’s one big happy family, and as long as you buy into it from the start you are going to have a lot of fun.
My dislike of Nicolas Cage as an actor continues, but I will say he didn’t actually bother me that much in this film, which oddly enough is the first time he has ever made a sequel to any of his films. He seems comfortable in the role whereas he actually never seems at home with most of his characters, perhaps we should expect a third film based on that alone. Bartha is enjoyable in this one and his one-liners hit home far more often than they did in the first film as they have a little more wit behind them rather than playing off obvious puns and inane observations.
The best part of the film is certainly the high level of action, which could have been cut back by maybe one or two, but that is really the only nit-pick I can find for this picture. Sure I could poke holes in the plot and take jabs at the cheesy story details, but this film is aware of all that and asks audiences to overlook the unimportant details in the spirit of entertainment, and it works. I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out Book of Secrets, just make sure when you do you go in there with the right mindset, and that is to leave your brain at the door.