Don’t be puzzled by ‘National Treasure’s’ critical drubbing
In the category of “Movie You Should See That Critics Don’t Want You To See,” “National Treasure” is the leading contender. It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of the venom this flawed but cheery puzzle-pic has provoked among film critics. Could it be the continued backlash against mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“Top Gun,” “The Rock,” “Armageddon,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) who makes entertainment for the masses to the chagrin of many insiders?
His blockbuster fingerprints are all over this Disney product, which also seems influenced by the media mogul’s TV shows, which include “CSI” and “The Amazing Race.” Disney itself is not exactly beloved in critical circles, and it doesn’t help matters that the plot of “National Treasure” seems pilfered from the hugely successful novel “The Da Vinci Code.” (Which looks to be headed for the big screen itself, possibly to be directed by Ron Howard.)
By releasing a preview trailer that details nearly every plot development, the film hasn’t helped its own cause. If it’s one thing moviegoers despise more than a bad movie, it’s a bad movie made irrelevant by a trailer that gives away everything. Depending on the review you read, the plot is either absurdly simple or painfully complex. Either way, the premise is ambitiously intriguing.
A massive bounty amassed 2000 years ago at the Knight’s Templar is thought to have been kept hidden upon its arrival in America by our Founding Fathers, who left a myriad of cryptic clues as to the treasure’s whereabouts.
Maverick Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) is the latest in his family of six generations who is obsessed with putting together the clues to find the treasure.
A falling out during an important clue-revealing expedition at the Arctic Circle leads Gates to steal the Declaration of Independence (which contains important clues on its backside) before his one-time partner, now adversary (“Lord of the Rings'” Sean Bean) can get his hands on it.
Gates is aided in his quest by quipster sidekick Riley, (a very funny Justin Bartha), and Abigail (“Troy’s” Diane Kruger) the prettiest National Archivist in history.
There are abundant authentic historical references, tight suspense sequences, and laugh-out-loud funny moments. When combined with the terrific chemistry among the talented cast members, they clearly outweigh the film’s implausible sequences and rather anti-climatic finish.
Many critics seem to have forgotten the objective of most PG movies — perhaps because they are so rare — and I can’t imagine a parent not having a good time sharing this movie with an inquisitive youngster.