Monday, December 24, 2007

Play&Do: National Treasure/Book of Secrets

by Jane Louise Boursaw

Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for some violence and action.
Theatrical Release: Dec. 21, 2007
Genre: Family, Action, Adventure
Runtime: 124 minutes
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel.

SYNOPSIS: Everyone’s favorite droopy-eyed adventurer is back, and this time he’s looking for a lost city of gold. Oh, and trying to clear the Gates family name by proving that one of their own didn’t orchestrate the assassination of President Lincoln. Throw in a bitter ex, two squabbling parents, and a cave full of goodies, and you’ve got the makings of a fun caper.

Profanity: None, although the insults fly fast and furious among squabbling ex-spouses.

Sex/ Nudity:
A female character passionately kisses a guy to distract him. Mild kisses between characters.

Violence/Gore: A young boy sees his father shot and killed, then the gun is turned on the boy (but he’s not shot). Lots of fast-paced action, including car chases, shooting, perilous teetering on a ledge inside a cave, rushing water in which a character drowns (shown only briefly). Also, President Lincoln’s assassination is shown in a flashback, though we don’t see the shooting.

Which Kids Will Like It? Ages 8 and older who love adventure movies and aren’t scared by lots of action.

Will Parents Like It? Yes, although I could have done without the gun pointed at the kid’s head in the opening scene. And really, why even include it? It’s not like it moved the story forward in any way. It’s just creepy.

REVIEW: Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and his entourage are back. This time, they’re searching for a lost city of gold and trying to clear his family’s name of any involvement in the assassination of President Lincoln.

But first, let’s catch up. Much has changed since we last left our droopy-eyed adventurer. Apparently, he used some of that treasure he found in the first movie to buy a beautiful mansion and fill it with extravagant antiques. Not only that, he and Abigail (Diane Kruger) got hitched. Then divorced. Or they’re in the midst of a divorce. Or something.

At any rate, Abigail kicked Ben out of the house, so in order to retrieve some important stuff to help him on his quest, Ben enlists old pal Riley (Justin Bartha) to break into the house, just as she’s coming home from a date. Awkward!

But Ben has bigger matters on his mind. While presenting some new information about John Wilkes Booth, a guy named Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) comes forward with evidence showing that Ben’s great-grandfather, Thomas Gates, helped to orchestrate Lincoln’s murder.

Well, that just can’t be! Ben sets out to prove him wrong, enlisting Abigail, Riley, and his parents (Jon Voight and Helen Mirren) to help out. The elder Gates couple haven’t spoken to each other in 32 years, which makes for an interesting adventure.

The clues lead to Buckingham Palace, the White House, and Mount Rushmore. Oh, and somewhere along the way, Ben is forced to (sort of) kidnap the President (Bruce Greenwood) to find out about his Book of Secrets that contains – you guessed it -- all of the nation’s secrets, including Area 51, the JFK conspiracy, and something on page 47 we never figure out, but which I’m sure will lead into the next sequel (I hope). Could Ben’s next caper be a top-secret mission for the President? Hmmm…

Ok, so at 124 minutes, this movie is a tad long, but the action, intrigue, and chemistry between the characters keep things moving along fairly well. The audience laughed in all the right places (especially at Riley’s funny comments) and held their collective breath in all the right places (especially during a perilous teetering-platform-in-a-cave scene straight out of one of my nightmares). And that Helen Mirren! She can do anything.

Overall, a fun movie for the whole family, but because of some of the action and violence (especially an unnecessary scene involving a gun pointed at a child), this movie is best for kids 8 and older.


One Reel: Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels: Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels: Something to talk about.
Four Reels: You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels: Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Visit her online at or email

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