National Treasure (4/10)
by Tony Medley
There are some good things I
can say about National Treasure. First, there is no nudity.
Second, there is no profanity. Third, there is no extramarital sex
without commitment or responsibility. That’s about it.
Movies are entertainment, not
life. So one must suspend disbelief to a certain extent. Unfortunately,
Director Jon Turteltaub, and his screenwriters and story creators too
numerous to mention (generally a clue that there’s a bad movie in
store), insert not one scene in this film that is credible. Not one!
This film is so totally divorced from reality as to be pure,
From the opening scenes
somewhere above the Arctic Circle where they find a ship that has been
buried in the snow for 200 years, but where doors still open and things
still work, to one of the more preposterous climaxes in the history of
film, this movie flunks every test of believability.
Benjamin Franklin (Ben) Gates (Nicholas Cage)
gets told a tall tale by his grandfather, John Adams Gates (Christopher
Plummer) and is hooked on the tale that there is a map to a hidden
treasure in many of our government documents, the most notable of which
is the Declaration of Independence.
Diane Kruger appears as
Abigail Chase (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Abigail, famous Revolutionary War names,
get it?). Kruger is making a career of roles that only require her to be
beautiful (Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, in Troy,
Lisa, an elusive beauty in Wicker Park). This one is no
exception. I wonder if she can act? But, who cares? She’s so beautiful
probably nobody pays any attention to anything she says or does on
screen, anyway. Abigail is some kind of Government official whose
responsibility apparently includes the task of seeing to it that Gates
doesn’t steal the Declaration. Sad to say, she fails.
Turteltaub & Co. don’t really
make much of an effort to have their characters do things that the
viewer will understand or buy into. When Ben and his buddy, Riley Poole
(Justin Bartha), are stranded in the middle of nowhere miles above the
Arctic Circle, Ben says, “There’s a camp 9 miles north,” as if they
would be walking down the block to the nearest Sav-On. Surviving that
ordeal might have made a good movie, but the next time we see them
they’re in Washington, D.C., planning to steal the Declaration. The
theft of the Declaration is so convoluted that Turteltaub doesn’t bother
to explain how these two guys could pull off such a sophisticated caper
in such a short period of time. The actors do things that aren’t
explained at all. Just in case you are terminally confused by all their
machinations, Trevor Rabin’s music constantly reminds us that this is a
And it’s Ian Howe (Sean
Bean), Ben’s former compatriot, who’s doing the chasing. He wants the
treasure and doesn’t care who gets hurt. There’s no reason to worry
about anybody getting hurt, though, because Howe’s partners in evil
might be up for the Oscar for the worst shots in the history of film.
Despite spraying bullets all over the place, they never hit anybody.
They hit things that make ricochet sounds, though, so that keeps
reminding us that we are watching a chase film, just in case the music
hasn’t done its job.
If you didn’t know how
brilliant our Founding Fathers were, according to Turteltaub & Co. they
devised devilishly clever hiding places where things will work 200 years
later at the snap of a finger. What they constructed to hide the
treasure was truly an engineering marvel. Not only does everything work
after 225 years, but Ben knows just what buttons to push and what to
light. Unanswered is why did our Founding Fathers, who were so brilliant
in setting up the first working Democracy, go to so much trouble to
construct this Byzantine scheme to hide this treasure and then leave a
bunch of arcane clues that only Gates can decipher more than two
centuries hence? When did they have time? How did they keep such a
massive project secret? And, as I recall my American History, the new
country was woefully short on funds. So they hid this treasure instead
of cashing it in? Even for a movie, this is too much to stomach.
doesn’t take Ben long to figure all the clues out, either. Even though
he’s been at it all his life, all he has to do when he decides that
something is a clue is to walk around a little, mumble, and then,
Eureka! he’s got it! What a guy! What a dismal tale!
November 17, 2004