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NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
U.S. Release Date: December 21, 2007
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writer: The Wibberleys, Ted Elliott (story), Terry Rossio (story)
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Composer: Trevor Rabin
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood, Ty Burrell
Running Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (some violence and action)

Sequel Retains Adventurism
by Scott Holleran

Avoiding the franchise fumble of many first sequels, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is an enjoyable follow-up that largely capitalizes on the original's attractive qualities. Not as strong as the first movie, the second at least does not default on the premise: family adventure tinged with a sense of history.

That director Jon Turteltaub allows the movie to deviate from a more pronounced historical emphasis probably comes with the territory; a picture that refers to Montesquieu and the Statue of Liberty in this vapid culture is something of an achievement. Do not expect the level of excitement afforded the original's noble Declaration of Independence, let alone a thesis about one of the nation's greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Working with a script by the talented writing team of Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, with story credit to Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, among others, Mr. Turteltaub keeps the focus on main character Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), his honey, Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and his comic relief partner Riley (Justin Bartha). They team with Pop Patrick Gates (Jon Voight), joined by his ex-wife (Helen Mirren) in order to restore family honor.

The family's name is sullied when Ed Harris presents what appears to be credible evidence linking Gates ancestors to the assassination of President Lincoln. The remainder of National Treasure: Book of Secrets centers on a plot to snatch and grab the president of the United States (Bruce Greenwood), a dangerous mission at Mount Rushmore and, of course, a book of secrets.

Figuring the puzzle isn't as much fun as watching the geek squad—refreshingly, every one of them is a brainy intellectual who's smarter than they were in the first picture—tear around the world looking for treasure and a sense of justice. But it's about solving riddles—including factoring the enigmatic players, whose roles shift, turn, and literally pivot on point. Abigail has issues with Ben—Riley has written a book—Ben has learned to behave, well, except for endangering the President. They will each be tested, including Ben's mother, gamely played by Miss Mirren, having a good time opposite Mr. Voight.

Sure, historical symbols pop up—a portrait of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, great American Lincoln representing the importance of a nation's unity during conflict—but Book of Secrets is bound by incremental chapters of lessening significance. We know the Gates gang, battling Ed Harris and a wall of water and shadowed again by Harvey Keitel's fed, will live to search another treasure.

Hopefully, the next one—if there is such a picture and there ought to be because this sort of brighter, benevolent adventurism is a rare treat—will be more challenging in terms of real history. Not that National Treasure: Book of Secrets is without riches: Riley, Abigail and Ben are measurably improved. Knowledge, not brute strength, merits power in this plot and, notably and wonderfully, oil is the currency of real progress.

From hidden compartments, caves and underground chambers to the purifying power of a single person to act as a patriot, National Treasure: Book of Secrets pulls out the stops with another perfect Saturday morning matinee for the whole family.


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