Week 4: National Treasure – Book of Secrets

Movie: National Treasure – Book of Secrets
MPAA#: 43985
Showtime: 9:35 PM
Companions: none
Attendance: approximately 30
Weather: cold, snowstorm forecast
Food: 600 ml Coke from theatre machine ($3? $4?), Reese Bites from concession stand ($4.50)
Expectations: low
Expectations met?: exceeded
Pre-show Ads: none
Trailers: Semi-Pro; Wall-E; Prince Caspian. Another limp-looking Will Farrell sports comedy; another awesome-looking Pixar movie; and another limp-looking Narnia movie. Good luck with all that, Disney.
Pre-show cartoon(!): yes, this film has a Disney cartoon beforehand, bless their hearts, entitled “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” and starring “Goofy.” I am not a huge fan of Goofy, never have been, but this amused me for many reasons, like all the cute little touches going in the background: a guy shoplifting DVDs at the “Shiny Stuff” store; the way lawn gnomes look in the Goofy-verse; and the photos of Uncle Walt and John Lasseter on the side table. If only National Treasure had the wit and energy of this 5 minute cartoon.

But, it doesn’t, and best of all, this is the second time I have seen it now (the first time was a few days before Week 1). I was hoping that something else, anything else, would be playing in Cinema 3 tonight. I didn’t bring my PSP this time in case of a repeat movie; just my Nintendo DS, but it didn’t feel right to sit in the theatre and learn French instead of watching some kind of movie.

Interesting note about NT:BoS – when you’re standing in line for tickets, the theatre has TVs hanging from the ceiling to list what films are playing at whatever times. Each of those listings usually has some kind of warning about the film content; Cloverfield says “Frightening Scenes,” Juno says “Mature Subject Matter,” Rambo says “Brutal Violence”(!) Only two films did not have any kind of warning under their title: Alvin and the Chipmunks and National Treasure. And why would it? NT:BoS is the most innocuous, uninteresting, unchallenging movie possible; which is especially remarkable considering that it purports to be about the incredible secrets of the United States.

I never saw the first film, but I assume that the principal players were all in it: Nic Cage, who shall from here on be referred to as “Jor-El”; funny sidekick guy and sexy blonde; John Voight, who is the opposite of them; and Harvey Keitel, who seems to appear on the condition that he can do his scenes sitting down. They probably had to sign contracts to appear in a trilogy, which means they had no choice. What I don’t understand is what Helen Mirren and Ed Harris are doing in this thing, especially Harris, taking the kind of ruthless prick role normally reserved for Brian Cox.

Well, whatever. The film itself is a series of increasingly ridiculous set pieces, yanking the audience from Washington to Paris to London to Maryland to Washington again and finally to South Dakota, all to prove that the House of El was not partly responsible for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The film lives in a strange kind of parallel America where the current President (Bruce Greenwood, himself no stranger to conspiracies) is intelligent and humane, people still know who Randy Travis is, and Mulder and Scully still work at the FBI for Harvey Keitel.

Jor-El nearly breaks his overacting bone in the Buckingham Palace scene, but it’s worth it for the framed picture of a Corgi on the Queen’s desk. Or is that Helen Mirren’s desk? She keeps cursing tequila in this movie, which makes me wonder if she signed the contract after drinking a lot of it. There’s also a weird scene at the White House where Jor-El and a young boy have a conversation about the Lincoln assassination that could be lifted from an old exchange between Crosetti and Lewis on Homicide: Life on the Street. Jor-El has a monotonous, matter of fact way of speaking otherwise, even when he says something as patently insane as “I’m going to kidnap the President.”

Finally, a few more notes for the screenwriters, who are credited as The Traveling Wilburys:

* John Voight + Helen Mirren making out = 35 years too late.
* Ripping off Ronin or Mission Impossible is one thing; ripping off Roman Holiday is low.
* All those stone latches and traps sure do work well after 500 years.
* Does “Page 47″ refer to the long-lost page of the script that makes this movie watchable?

But what can we expect from the writers who gave us Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Boys 2 and I Spy? This movie never passes up an opportunity to state the obvious, and in the end feels like a particularly long, particularly dumb episode of The A-Team.

Do I recommend it?: No.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: none.
Weird credit: Moving by Poetri. I guess poetri should be moving, if it’s done right.
Credit cookie?: none.
For further consideration: are step-dance movies the new street racing movies?
Opening next weekend: The Eye; Strange Wilderness; Over Her Dead Body; Caramel.
Please god, anything but: Over Her Dead Body.


About Scott M

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