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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.84%
Worth A Look: 20.63%
Average: 23.02%
Pretty Bad23.81%
Total Crap: 12.7%

9 reviews, 72 user ratings

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National Treasure
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by Jay Seaver

"The kind of movie that would be memorable if ANYBODY over-achieved."
3 stars

The reason I will likely never actually get paid to give my opinion of movies is that I can't give something like National Treasure the sort of extreme reaction it seems designed to draw from critics. I can't be the shill that sticks superlatives on it, but it doesn't create the desire for my review to have the nastiest, most smart-ass intro on all of Hollywood Bitch-Slap.

National Treasure is competent. It doesn't break any new ground in its storytelling, acting, or staging. Director John Turteltaub is not as flashy as some of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's usual collaborators, letting the story unfold with a minimum of distractions. The screenplay (credited to Cormac & Marianne Wibberly from a story by Jim Kouf, though the one-sheet listed Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio as well) hits the expected spots at the expected times, and doesn't give the cast much to do that's particularly memorable.

It is a fun story, though - Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is the latest in a family that has been entrusted with a vague clue that supposedly leads to an incredible treasure, brought to America by the Knights Templar, a group which the movie tells us became the Freemasons. Many of America's Founding Fathers, of course, belonged to this group, and Masonic symbols still appear on American currency. Gates's search for this treasure is being financed by one Ian Howe (Sean Bean), but it doesn't take long for Howe to reveal himself as the film's villain. Having determined that the next clue is written on the back of the Declaration of Independence, Gates, assisted by tech whiz Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), races to steal it first. Along the way he picks up Abigain Chase, a cute archivist (Diane Kruger) and clashes with his father (Jon Voight), who has given up on finding the treasure. Along the way, there will be chases, standoffs, and the ever-popular "hidden chamber with a bottomless pit in the center".

There is a sort of optimization to this movie's casting that fascinates me. At the top, you have Nic Cage, a legitimate movie star. Star power, however, isn't additive, so the sidekick and love interest can be almost complete unknowns. The villain is a B-list guy, once pegged as a leading man, but never actually attaining that goal; thus he's a credible threat to the hero but won't actually steal the picture. Guys with good reputations forged a generation or so ago but not much to show for it recently play the hero's father and grandfather. A workhorse with indie cred (Harvey Keitel) reminds the audience that the FBI agent in charge of investigating this mess is important. I find myself wondering whether replacing Nicolas Cage with, say, Mark Wahlberg would have meant upgrading Justin Bartha to Seth Green and replacing Sean Bean with someone like Arnold Vosloo to compensate for the difference in star power.

So, let's run down what we've got - a fun basis for the movie, a producer known for delivering the good production values, an able enough director, and a decent cast. The bad news is that nobody overachieves and delivers more than you would reasonably expect; the good news is that nobody screws up. So the movie winds up being a couple of enjoyable hours, though nothing that will merit buying a DVD so that you can own it for ever and ever.

On the plus side, it's fairly kid-friendly. I don't think anyone bleeds - heck, even the bad guys use non-lethal weapons on a guard while breaking into the National Archives. There's only the mildest sexual innuendo (or, unfortunately, tension), and the rest of the language is kept clean, as well. At one point, Gates and Riley tut-tut about Abigail swearing, even though it sounded to my ears like she said "dumb" instead of "damn". Some in the audience won't see the PG rating as an asset, but it works for this picture. Its secret societies and conspiracies aren't sinister, so it wisely concentrates on the fun aspects rather than the gritty ones.

I suppose it comes down to where a person wants to draw their line and establish their standards. National Treasure is a pleasant adventure/quest movie, whereas Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a great one (at this point, feel free to imagine me looking at their relative success at the box office and grumbling about the world not being fair). "Pleasant" was enough for me on that particular night, but may not be enough for everyone.

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originally posted: 12/10/04 04:44:37
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User Comments

3/31/11 TG It might be silly and plotholed, but it's genuinely fun and extremely rewatchable. 5 stars
2/20/11 Ark FINALLY! Someone else hates this turkey as much as me! 1 stars
12/26/09 Jeff Wilder Not bad popcorn entertainment. 3 stars
11/02/09 Greg needed patriotism from anti-american hollywood 5 stars
10/08/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
2/13/08 Irisea I just have to say that i really love this movie!! 5 stars
12/24/07 Matt wow..... I blame the da vinci code for this load. I want the last two hours of my life back 1 stars
11/24/07 Thomas Semesky Watchable but rather silly. You have to suspend all reasoning. 3 stars
9/19/07 j-bird it was really good 4 stars
6/04/07 Stuck In Left Yeah flawed but watchable/enjoyable enough 3 stars
5/28/07 Whitely My favorite Movie Ever! You have to watch it! 5 stars
4/15/07 R.W.Welch Too contrived to have much impact. Average acting. 3 stars
3/27/07 kathy underheart childress strokes his cock again and thinks he's the funniest man in the world 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Rollicking, cheer-the-heroes adventure. 4 stars
2/01/07 Pam Fantastic! 5 stars
12/26/06 Parker H. Smock National Treasure is a government input to Hollywood fantasy wake movie about 9/11 5 stars
9/04/06 Jarkko Perälä Really, really boring 2 stars
9/02/06 the producer it made over 500 million doallrs 4 stars
6/16/06 Michele fun and clever 4 stars
5/22/06 Diane P this was very entertaining and really enjoyable 4 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer It's American History 101 made... AWESOME!!! 5 stars
3/09/06 Dk Patchy as hell but damned good fun to 3 stars
2/11/06 Anthony This is Indiana Jones with Nicholas Cage 3 stars
1/07/06 Michael Silly story ... good movie 4 stars
12/19/05 Quigley this was a great caper movie. good action and acting, but plot was kinda empty-headed 5 stars
12/15/05 none of your bissnes good 3 stars
12/08/05 millersxing Exploring secret societies often makes for serpentine yet silly plots. 2 stars
10/26/05 Frank Rountree Good story. Pace moves well 4 stars
10/12/05 Jennifer Free A lot of fun and clean. Great family film! 5 stars
10/04/05 Aldo not bad...much than sahara..but not as good as indiana Jones 4 stars
9/13/05 i wont tell you very boring movie 1 stars
8/17/05 Dan Not bad... it's better than 80% of the crap Hollywood released last year 4 stars
7/16/05 tony Not a bad film. in fact, i liked it. 4 stars
6/15/05 JFK damn patriotism!!!! USA sucks and this movie tries to make the ancestors good people. 2 stars
6/07/05 Helen Bradley Not worth a look boring 1 stars
6/06/05 Daniel Myers This movie is really cool! I love it! If you dont like it you dont get it! 5 stars
6/01/05 Jiz Kinda boring, weak plot. "I have connections" = "I figured you out in a scene they deleted" 3 stars
5/27/05 Quigley whoever doesn't like this film is a dope. greatly entertaining, but suspend disbelief 5 stars
5/13/05 edsandiego2 I love the DVD and the special feature. 4 stars
5/08/05 Valerie Cool movie. 4 stars
5/05/05 Dan Pretty good! 5 stars
5/01/05 Steve Newman easy film - no brain ache - I enjoyed it (on a 757 from USA) 4 stars
4/29/05 Nobody This is an awesome action/adventure, the Da Vinci code meets Indiana Jones 5 stars
4/24/05 allnight9 Looking from a family stand point this is a great movie to take the kids to 4 stars
4/17/05 iteachpc Loved it! 5 stars
2/02/05 Charlie Only okay because Nic was in it! 3 stars
1/28/05 Flicker I thought this movie was a good way to spend a cold afternoon at the theater. Liked it!! 4 stars
1/27/05 Sumie It a good movie, it makes you think, watch it! 5 stars
1/18/05 Dave M Not high art, but entertaining; appreciate it's something you can take a family to see 4 stars
1/10/05 Brett Mindless fun, a little predictable, but good 4 stars
1/09/05 burton miller unbelievable, clunky, dumb 1 stars
12/17/04 Jenny from Da block This movie kicks ass! 5 stars
12/16/04 Ranting Madman Stupid beyond measure. Another Schlockheimer triumph. 1 stars
12/13/04 Ron Dumlao not a must-see film, but i nonetheless had fun 3 stars
12/13/04 bobby da squid Awkward dialogue, absurd plot, intrusive music. Not horrible, but very mediocre 2 stars
12/10/04 Aboud A Da Vinci Code wannabe. The 'clues' arent as clever as they could have been. 2 stars
12/10/04 willliam pond excellent; you critics are certainly of of touch with main stream movie watchers 4 stars
12/04/04 Lord Jiggy Low expectations were rewarded with fun, if derivative, romp. 4 stars
12/02/04 gray BS storyline 1 stars
12/01/04 RogueJS Interesting, but too Disney-ized. It could have been dark & thought-provoking, i.e. better 3 stars
11/27/04 Destiny Pifer This was a awesome adventure movie! 5 stars
11/26/04 Vicky The purpose of films is to be entertaiining, and this one was. Great 5 stars
11/25/04 Megan National Treasure is a really cool movie cause I luv history espesially egypt & ben frank 5 stars
11/24/04 KingNeutron Sean Bean 0wnz0red this movie. And the 3D stuff *was* pretty cool. 4 stars
11/24/04 John Very interesting; very informative 5 stars
11/23/04 linda It's fun 5 stars
11/22/04 Bell Girl What a waste of money. More brainless dribble from Hollywood. Yipppeee 2 stars
11/21/04 Heath If you're looking for something fun, then a treasure you'll find in this movie. 5 stars
11/21/04 Meryl I'm a history major, and therefore found it quite a fun romp. 5 stars
11/21/04 Kristina Williams Nicolas Cage is no longer relevant 1 stars
11/20/04 impartial judgement nicolas cage needs to retire w/his underage wife 1 stars
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  19-Nov-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 03-May-2005



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