- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
erry Bruckheimer’s questionable talent has been measured over the years with a countless collection of action/adventure films that use a simple formula for success: big stars + explosions = box office blockbuster. While the question of whether the aging producer is a no-talent hack or a Hollywood mastermind is uncertain, one thing's for sure: never walk into a Bruckheimer movie without a giant tub of popcorn. The same goes for his latest flick, “National Treasure,” which, despite including very little in the way of character development, does offer a few academic notes for brainiacs to chew on.
Nicolas Cage stars as Benjamin Gates, an Indiana Jones-like history buff who has been searching for a secret treasure bonded to his family name for over seven generations. Convinced that the legendary treasure was hidden by the country’s founding fathers, Ben teams up with a wealthy crook named Ian Howe (Sean Bean) to uncover the mystery once and for all. The team’s latest clue leads them to the Declaration of Independence, where an invisible map is rumored to appear, but when Ben learns that Ian plans to steal the 200-year-old document and take the treasure for himself, he snatches the document first. With map in hand, Ben sets off for the final leg of the hunt with both Ian and the FBI (led by Harvey Keitel) hot on his trail. What he doesn't realize, however, is that the price of protecting history is more dangerous than he could ever imagine.
Disney is pushing the envelope on the validity of their live-action productions. “National Treasure” isn’t exactly a disappointment, but it can only go downhill from here. It’s extremely difficult to produce a film with action these days while still keeping the rating board’s final decision tame enough to market the film as family entertainment, but director Jon Turteltaub has just barely passed the grade with this effort. The action is only mediocre at best and the main character struggles to appear exciting even with Cage’s intense charismatic acting style.
The script also has its share of plot holes that question the relevancy of why the United States would be hording an ancient European treasure, but it was finally nice to see the hero use his brains over his gadgets to escape from sticky situations. In the end, "National Treasure" is a hard movie to wholly recommend – it has far too many aesthetical problems for a film critic to deal with – but it is an interesting trip to the movies that will entertain and educate the entire family.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
When “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” arrived in theaters at the end of last year, it was only natural to expect a re-release of the first film on DVD. While some “collector’s editions” are often necessary improvements on previous releases, however, the “National Treasure” two-disc effort felt more like a shameless money grab. For starters, the entire first disc was a replica of the original release – save for the fact that in order to view some of the bonus material, you had to watch other extras first. The second disc wasn’t much better, including seven additional minutes of deleted scenes and two production featurettes on the film’s heist (“To Steal a National Treasure”) and blowing up the Charlotte.
Also featured were little bits on the use of code throughout history (“Ciphers, Codes & Codebreakers”), but so much of the interviews are used over and over again that it began to feel a little monotonous. You can expect much of the same from the Disney Blu-ray release (including a new featurette called “Mission History: Inside the Declaration of Independence”), but thanks to a lively audio commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and co-star Justin Bartha, this is one film that diehard fans might still want to consider upgrading to their hi-def collection.