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Buried Treasures of the Rocky Mountain West
by W.C. Jameson
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets"

Though there's hardly a person on the planet who wouldn't be fascinated by the prospects of hidden treasure, the real work of finding one, with the necessary research and decoding of ancient languages and maps is more a matter of investigative discipline than an energetic movie pursuit. But, in an entertainment framework, it's the swift pace that counts. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" avoids academic boredom with a wide and cleverly (if extreeemely unreal) planted scheme of clues to keep the adventure action in geographic overdrive and concerns about logic in abeyance.

The first job falling to director Jon Turteltaub and The Wibberleys (screenwriting team Cormac and Marianne) is to convince us that the treasure in question is not only of inestimable value but that it contains an emotional involvement for the hero. In the original "National Treasure," the spark for the action is a map secretly embedded on the back of The Declaration Of Independence, a national treasure leading to a prize of ancient artifacts. Here, the secretly embedded key is on a torn out page of a diary. Not just any diary. This is one of historic significance.

It is the diary of John Wilkes Booth, the evil plotter who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, containing the detailed preparations leading up to that tragic event. And, When a missing torn -out page surfaces in the hands of unscrupulous Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris, sssssss), it appears to imply that an ancestor of professor Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) was one of Booth's fellow plotters.

But, how can this be? As far as Gates and his father Patrick (Jon Voight) knew, their great (x8 or so) grandfather was a honorable man and a hero. Even though the page itself is genuine, this new allegation brought forward by an untrusty, mud-slinging source trying to ennoble his ancestor and heap belated glory on his family's name must be disproven!

Hence we have the spark of an adventure that will uncover a secret code on the back of the page (perhaps using the same technology as the code on the back of the Declaration of Independence?); Gate's estranged archivist wife Abigail Chase's (pretty Diane Kruger) new boyfriend who happens, by virtue of his Secret Service connections, to be able to provide access to the hallowed stacks in the Library of Congress (instead of the Smithsonian) and, later, to the Oval Office; thence to Paris, to London and ultimately back to America.

Of course, the estranged wife isn't going to take a back seat in the journey, however dangerous the hurdles and henchmen along the way. Nor will dad stay behind. In fact, Ben insists on dad's presence when the trail demands the kind of ancient language translation that only mom Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren) can provide. While Ben and Abigail are estranged, Patrick and Emily, long since divorced, are dogs in a pit when they come together in a room. What do you think the chances are of reconciliations all 'round?

This team of good guys are stalked by Wilkinson who isn't about allowing the Gateses from completing their mission and/or, claiming the vast treasure (can you believe the lost "City of Gold"?) the codes and maps seem to be leading them to. He does this with relentless determination and all necessary violence.

Bruce Greenwood shows up as the Commander in Chief whom Gates lures into a trap in order to provide one more key clue (as implausible as anything else but amusingly choreographed). Harvey Keitel is Sadusky, a somewhat bemused Chief of the FBI. Justin Bartha completes the team of adventurers as Riley Poole, Gates' virtuoso of technology. What this guy can do with a cellphone camera and a remote-controlled mini-helicopter! Kruger's beauty is, of course, another plus for the romantic comedy aspects of the adventure.

You might not think too much of a movie that is so formulaic and a closely adhered-to immitation of its predecessor. But, why not? True, the character depth is about one degree from a video game, but it was the hunt for hidden treasure that led to the success of "National Treasure" in the first place and fans are going to look for the same scale of tensions by the same set of characters to repeat the commercial success. That, messrs. Turteltaub and the Wibberley's seem to have made inevitable, in accordance with producer Jerry Bruckheimer's standards for action and scale and, in this instance, historic allusion (never foregetting the "National" of the title). His pic was lensed in five U.S. States and two European capitals.

The territory covered here may seem more than a little imitative -- an overlay of the original plotting, but isn't that what the task for this sequel is -- a fantasy based on tracking down historical artifacts that have something to do with the union? The filmmakers have done a stimulating job of it and my entertainment needs are fine with this energetic Nicolas Cage action-driven puzzle-riding fantasy without needing to probe for a new creative pulse. Sometimes implausibility works and the trick here is Cage's bounty of enthusiasm. Those who didn't appreciate the original won't find anything more on this treasure hunt. Let'm look for eggs at Easter.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

  • Audio commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight
  • Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Jon Turteltaub
  • The Treasure Reel -- Bloopers & Outtakes
  • Secrets of a Sequel
  • The Book of Secrets: On Location
  • Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase
  • Inside the Library of Congress
  • Underground Action
  • Cover Story: Crafting The President's Book
  • Evolution of A Golden City
  • Knights of the Golden Circle
  • DVD of the original "National Treasure"

    Soundtrack of the original "National Treasure"

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    by Jules Brenner)

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    Diane Kruger and Nicolas Cage
    On the hunt for treasure and reconciliation.

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