Trea­sure hunt­ing with­out a clue

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

NA­TIONAL TREA­SURE: BOOK OF SE­CRETS Di­rected by Jon Turteltaub. Star­ring Ni­co­las Cage, Jon Voight, Har­vey Kei­tel, Ed Har­ris, Diane Kruger, He­len Mir­ren, Bruce Green­wood, Justin Bartha PG cert, gen re­lease, 124 min

HEY, Burt Side­kick, have you fin­ished run­ning up and down lad­ders for no good rea­son? Yes? Well, then what do you make of this rid­dle? Th­ese cryp­tic phrases in this ob­scure doc­u­ment – some­thing called Variety, ap­par­ently – ap­pear to in­di­cate a con­nec­tion be­tween a par­tic­u­lar 16th-cen­tury Tus­can poly­math and mas­sive cur­rency move­ments in the con­ti­nen­tal US two years ago. “Da Vinci Pulls in Boffo Do­mes­tic Tally: see pg 12.”

What can it mean? Pass me those big dusty vol­umes, that mag­ni­fy­ing glass and two hand grenades. Oh, and Get the he­li­copter started. We’re on our way to Lon­don, Eng­land.

When Na­tional Trea­sure was re­leased in 2004, Da Vinci Code ma­nia had not quite reached hys­ter­i­cal pro­por­tions. In­deed, it was per­fectly pos­si­ble to re­view that dis­tinctly ropy film – in which Pro­fes­sor Ni­cholas Cage ex­am­ined iconic Amer­i­can arte­facts for point­ers as to the lo­ca­tion of lovely trea­sure – with­out mak­ing men­tion of Dan Brown’s id­i­otic anti-novel. (It was, how­ever, harder to avoid com­par­isons with the no­to­ri­ously cryp­tic 1970s game show 321.)

How­ever, com­ing af­ter the be­wil­der­ing suc­cess of Ron Howard’s ter­ri­ble film of The Da Vinci Code, Na­tional Trea­sure: Book of Se­crets does end up look­ing like a mildly toxic byprod­uct of Brown In­dus­tries.

Book of Se­crets finds Cage, now sep­a­rated from fel­low bof­fin Diane Kruger, at­tempt­ing to clear the name of a late an­ces­tor who has be­lat­edly be­come im­pli­cated in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln. Af­ter break­ing into Buck­ing­ham Palace, chat­ting up un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally pally gen­darmes in Paris, France and pour­ing over too many stacks of am­bigu­ous runes, the prof once more finds his trea­sure an­ten­nae tin­gling. There is, he sur­mises, Na­tive Amer­i­can gold be­neath Mount Rush­more.

Book of Se­crets is corny, clumsy and con­fus­ing, though much nip­pier and con­sid­er­ably less pre­ten­tious than that Da Vinci thing. If one must en­dure two hours of re­lent­less id­iocy, then there are worse peo­ple to spend that time with than (let’s leave Cage out of this) Har­vey Kei­tel, Jon Voight and He­len Mir­ren.

Yes, you read that last name cor­rectly. Why is that, af­ter win­ning the Os­car for best ac­tress, so many per­form­ers im­me­di­ately step down­mar­ket? Is it a Ma­sonic plot? Per­haps the Vat­i­can is in­volved. I smell a con­spir­acy.

Spelunkers go ker­plunk: Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha and Ni­co­las Cage

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