Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mindless (but fun) 'Treasure'

I usually ignore the big holiday blockbusters, unless they happen to be favorite franchise installments (James Bond, "Batman"). But I gave in last night and went to see "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," which turned out to be the perfect after Christmas picture. I wasn't in the mood to think or get bogged down in someone else's moralizing, so this worked out just fine.

I somehow managed to miss the original "National Treasure," a mishap I'm going to remedy via Netflix, but I caught on pretty quick. Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is back in action when an audience member at one of his lectures (the venerable Ed Harris) accuses his ancestor of overseeing the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Ben takes off to Europe to track down the latest treasure, along with electronics pal and hapless wonder Riley (Justin Bartha) and estranged wife Abigail (the very fetching Diane Kruger). Dad Patrick (Jon Voight) and mom Emily (Helen Mirren) are along for much of the adventure too.

The trail leads to the other Statue of Liberty (one of three, who knew?), Buckingham Palace, the White House and, finally, to Mount Rushmore. Along the way, Ben has a lot of fun and even gets to kidnap the president (Bruce Greenwood), who has an uncanny resemblance to JFK (which is probably why he was tapped to play our 35th president in "Thirteen Days" back in 2000). Perhaps my favorite part of the film happens at the president's birthday reception, when country crooner Randy Travis shows up to sing. That got a big laugh.

"Book of Secrets" isn't going to win any Oscars, but it was a great way to unwind after the holiday rush. It's escapist fare that's perfect for all ages (we even got a Goofy cartoon before the show -- when was the last time that happened??).

If you enjoyed the first film, you'll surely love this one. It throws in enough history to make buffs like myself smile.

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is now playing. It is rated PG.

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