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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Not-bad throwback adventure."
4 stars

Nicolas Cage makes being a geek look cool. When he plays a brainiac, as he does in the retro, whistle-clean adventure 'National Treasure,' he gets us caught up in the almost sensual pleasures of knowledge.

Midway through the movie, Cage's character, Benjamin Franklin Gates, stands holding the Declaration of Independence -- the movie's MacGuffin, which has an invisible map on its back -- in Independence Hall; close to tears of awe, he says, "This is the first time this has been in this room since it was signed." Moments like that, I think, are why Cage took the role; passion is his main currency, and Ben Gates is an impassioned, albeit discredited, student of history, as driven towards preservation as his other Ben (in Leaving Las Vegas) was bent on self-destruction.

Restlessly directed by Jon Turteltaub, who showed no particular flair for adventure filmmaking in his wet Phenomenon and Instinct, the movie goes like a rocket, from one ornate clue to the next; National Treasure is more a detective story than a two-fisted adventure like the Indiana Jones movies. The vast treasure promised by a family document has haunted Ben's life, much to the dismay of his hard-headed dad (Jon Voight), who thinks the treasure's a myth. Regardless, Ben has managed to convince some people, including his computer-nerd helper Riley (a scene-stealing Justin Bartha) and a shady character, Ian Howe, who funds Ben's missions; Ian is played by Sean Bean, who specializes in duplicity, so we know he's bad news the second we lay eyes on him. Ben isn't so fortunate, not having seen GoldenEye or Ronin.

The movie becomes a merrily absurd hunt in which Ben tries to keep the Declaration of Independence safe from Ian's band of thieves; to do this, Ben has to steal it himself. Before that, though, he slouches from office to office -- FBI, Homeland Security -- trying to tell everyone that the historical document is going to be stolen; no one believes him, not even Diane Kruger as a curator at the National Archives, who gets drawn into the adventure against her will during the Declaration's theft-for-its-own-good. Those who hoot at the implausibilities in National Treasure are barking up the wrong tree, and may be forgetting how flatly unbelievable some of the situations in the Indy films were. Nobody wanted to spoil the fun then, so why should we now?

I called the movie "whistle-clean," and it's decidedly family-friendly; the backstory on National Treasure is that it was going to be distributed by Disney's Touchstone wing, which handles PG-13 and R-rated films, until it was submitted to the ratings board and came back with a rare PG. That explains why the film is going out under the time-honored Walt Disney banner, and in truth, it's about as wholesome as any of the studio's live-action flicks decades ago; I'm pretty sure there isn't even any swearing in the movie, except maybe in German. Nor is there much gunplay, at least none that pierces anything but walls, and there's a refreshing lack of CGI gimmickry, too. I mention all this because I write about a lot of films that aren't suitable for all ages, and when one comes along that's not only safe for Junior and Grandma but also pretty entertaining, I like to point it out, if only to refute the complaint that they don't make 'em like that anymore.

Of course, with such inoffensiveness comes a certain lack of edge. The plot of National Treasure could fit snugly inside a Hardy Boys book, and the scenes of clue-hunting (including a fairly nifty pair of specs that enable the wearer to have a Well of Souls-type revelation) should delight boys; I don't know how well girls will take to the adventure, since Diane Kruger is mostly reduced to running around or dangling from things (Lara Croft she ain't, nor even Marion Ravenwood).

'National Treasure,' for me, is a fun and smooth throwback, but for boys of a certain age it may gather the nostalgic heft of the 'Indiana Jones' films when those boys grow up. It might even inspire them to crack a book or two, and look up the Founding Fathers, and then the Freemasons, and from there, who knows.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 12:13:46
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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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