CGI-assisted stunts that at their "best" come off as corny rides at Disneyland; "mysterious" dialogue that sounds like it was written by a slightly smarter than average twelve year old who just finished reading The Da Vinci Code; a treasure quest right out of a Laura Croft Tomb Raider video game but without anybody sexy in it; a denoument that strives for sentimentality where sentiment has no place; & cartoon villains who are impossible to defeat until the film reaches its requisit length, then it's easy.
Such is National Treasure (2004). This sort of film is apparently supposed to be stupid, but this one's tres stupid.
One generally expects all the flash & glitz of stupendous stunts & FX to kind of make up for the stupidity, but this one just looks cheap. And what possessed the likes of Nicholas Cage & Harvey Keitel, who can do so much better, to be in it?
Crapulistic commercialism is never so bad as to negate the possibility of sequels when what counts is "are people stupid enough to pay to see it." Why yes we were, flocks of us rushing forth for fleecing, & thereby were we blessed with the further chapter National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007).
Cage is back as Ben Gates, in another cheezy imitation of The Da Vinci Code, rushing from clue to clue escaping increasingly improbable traps & scrapes requiring CGI, rendering it all much more video game cartoon than live-action movie.
Gates' personal quest is a two-tined fork: find out if his great-grandfather was a heroic figure or a co-conspirator in the Lincoln assassination, & find the lost Templar treasure.
Cage tries to come off as another swashbuckling Indiana Jones rather than another dweeb like Robert Langdon, but frankly he made a better cartoon character in Ghost Rider (2007).
Either way there's nothing original here, & one laments the days when Cage was in suc hgreat stuff as Rumble Fish (1983), Vampire's Kiss (1988) & Red Rock West (1993). I guess it's not impossible he'll be in something good again someday; not all his commercial nonsense of the last few years is anywhere near as bad as the National Treasure films.
One expects tripe like this on the direct-to-video market where ridiculous imitations of already-ridiculous-enough big-budget films are plunked before budget-rental audiences. But how in hell does a film this assinine get a theatrical release?
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