By Tyler Gilliam
“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” follows the exploits of Benjamin Gates, played by Nicolas Cage, as he searches yet again for a long-lost, absurdly conceived treasure. Though strikingly similar to the first “National Treasure,” this pseudo-history-based sequel sends Gates on a treasure-hunting mission to clear the name of his great-great-grandfather, who is accused of masterminding the Lincoln assassination.The search brings Gates back together with his father, played by Jon Voight; his partner, played by Justin Bartha; and his estranged girlfriend, played by Diane Kruger. The film also introduces us to Gates’ mother, Emily, played by Dame Helen Mirre, and antagonist Mitch Wilkinson, played by Ed Harris, who accused Gates’ ancestor of assassinating the family’s favorite president, Lincoln.
Ben Gates and crew hit Paris, London and Washington piecing clues together in a way that can only be described as six degrees to Kevin Bacon for history. Like its predecessor, “Book of Secrets” requires our hero to “borrow” an important historical document. This time, instead of the Declaration of Independence, Ben Gates must acquire the presidents’ book of secrets, via kidnapping none other than the president of the United States, played by Bruce Greenwood.
A mugging, a couple of car chases and a kidnapping later, we end up trolling through a city of gold, long hidden beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota (and you thought Mount Rushmore was just there to scare the aliens).
Ben Gates’ ever-faithful sidekick, Riley Poole (Bartha), was careful to point out all the clichés latent throughout the film. The classic idea of violent competition between treasure hunters, the incompetent security systems and even the film’s distance from Oscar-worthiness is brought to the forefront by the lovable Riley. Not to be outdone, Nicolas Cage, who is not known for doing great accents (does “Con Air” ring a bell?), unleashes an obnoxiously loud and hilariously rotten English accent right in the middle of a crowded Buckingham Palace.
The mother Gates (Mirren) blamed her marriage to the father Gates on “excitement, adrenaline, and tequila.” Loving “Book of Secrets” definitely requires heavy reliance on excitement and adrenaline, though I’d imagine the tequila couldn’t hurt either. The film, or at least the score, is exhaustingly exciting. The overwhelmingly epic music keeps tension high, even during something as mundane as a trip to the library. Still, the movie’s sometimes-unnecessarily fast pace makes it feel shorter than its 140 minutes.
If you are looking for a serious action picture, the movie is a disaster. But when you take the film for what it is, as a sequel to a family-friendly adventure, “Book of Secrets” really is a lot of fun. As long as you don’t watch it with a history book in your lap, you’re sure to have a good time.