It would be easy to lambaste National Treasure: Book of Secrets for being drivel. The treasure hunt film reuses all of the same adventure and plotting gags of National Treasure, which in 2004 banked $173 million at the box office.
The story is fluff, neither intelligent nor thought-provoking. The acting similarly just hammy and overblown as it was before. And yet, in true Disney fashion, Secrets still manages to be absolute fun.
Following the first films events, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is horrified when a gentleman by the name of Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) implicates Bens great-grandfather as one of the masterminds behind President Lincolns assassination.
Refusing to let his familys name be associated with one of the nations darkest days, Ben enlists the aid of his former team: his father, Patrick (Jon Voight); his friend Riley (Justin Bartha); and his estranged girlfriend, Abigail (Diane Kruger).
Delving deep into Civil War lore, Ben believes a fabled City of Gold to be the key to exonerating his family. Clues lead Ben on whirlwind trips: from Buckingham Palace to the White House, from Bens mother (Helen Mirren) at the University of Maryland to the secret passageways beneath Mount Vernon, where the truth about a secret book known only to U.S. presidents is finally told leading Ben to even more historic locales.
Director Jon Turteltaub does a good job of keeping the loopy story on track by focusing on the jokey interplay among the characters. The film is peppered with amusing nods to James Bond and Mission Impossible, with whimsical embellishments to American history.
The action sequences are like elaborate video game puzzles, entertaining to be sure, even though they tend to feel a little long since we know the characters will never be in any real danger this is a franchise, after all.
Despite this lack of drama, Cage and Kruger are highly entertaining to watch, even though their sexual tension is PG-friendly. Mirren and Harris have their share of fun, while Barthas Riley remains the Jimmy Olsen of archeology adventure.
With a pace a notch below pulse-pounding excitement, Secrets proves that Disney is the front-runner of family-friendly adventure action films. The kind that make full use of the film mediums potential for escapist fun, which, given the seriousness of many of this seasons awards-contending films, is just what most audiences could use right now.
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