Review: "National Treasure"

Listen to Tee's review:

National Treasure DVDRon Howard and Tom Hanks are gearing up to put Dan Brown's bestselling thriller on film, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer apparently tries to beat them to the punch with National Treasure which plays like The DaVinci Code... on steroids.

RATING: 4 out of 5

If you haven't read The DaVinci Code, let me give you a quick rundown. Symbologist Robert Langdon gets swept up in a bit of intrigue when a murder occurs at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the DCPJ (The French equivalent to the FBI) believe Langdon is the murderer, fingered by the dead man himself. Langdon, alongside Cryptologist Sophie Neveu, begin following a series of clues left behind by DaVinci in paintings, puzzles, and landmarks that will lead to the Holy Grail. Cool, huh?

The DaVinci Code has become the hottest title to hit the bookstores since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It has become so popular of a book that people are now publishing books about Code, delving into more detail over The Knights Templar, the Priory of Scion, the Virgin Mary, and DaVinci. Its reputation has reached such a fervor that there is a contingent of people (I discovered at GalaxyCon 2) who believe Code is non-fiction (And folks? it's fiction!) and Ron Howard is turning it into a film with Tom Hanks will be in the lead role.

Now producer Jerry Bruckheimer must have read Code and asked himself "How can I dumb this down and make a kick ass action movie out of this"? And after a few lattes, Bruckheimer probably said "First, don't set it in France. Set it in the United States. And instead of the DCPJ, the French equivalent to the FBI, just make it the FBI. Allright, instead of making the hero a 'Symbologist', how about we just make him a treasure hunter? That'll work. And instead of the Holy Grail, let's just make it a big-ass treasure that our Founding Fathers hid. And as for the clues: hmmm... instead of DaVinci paintings -- oh-oh-oh, we put a treasure map on the back of The Declaration of Independence! Okay, let's throw in a hot blonde, and we'll make her smart. Add a wacky sidekick who's a wiz with computers, an evil Richard Branson, and The Free Masons. We need a secret society to hold everything responsible for, so we can always count on The Masons."

"And since I'm Jerry Bruckheimer, I'm gonna blow stuff up!"

This is National Treasure, the first knock-off of The DaVinci Code released before the original is even releasing teasers!

Ben Gates is a self-proclaimed "treasure protector", part of a family entrusted with safeguarding a secret that has cost the family their reputation in academic circles and their relationships with one another. The secret is a massive mother lode of a treasure amassed since Egyptian conquests, discovered by the Knights Templar, brought over with Christopher Columbus, and then hidden by Geroge Washington and his pals in the Free Masons. This treasure is now considered a historian's equivalent to an urban legend, but Gates finds a true believer in rebel millionaire Ian Howe. A clue leads Gates and Howe to believe the real key to finding the treasure lies in the Declaration of Independence. Howe suggests they "borrow" it. Gates doesn't think stealing the Declaration is such a good idea. That's when Howe becomes "bad guy with a bankroll" and tries to double-cross Gates. Instead, Gates and his super-smart techno-geek Riley Poole narrowly escape Howe's trap, and set out to protect the Declaration of Independence by stealing it themselves.

So begins this "Amazing Race" and I enjoyed it every step of the way.

When I saw the trailer for National Treasure, I knew this would be Bruckheimer's own slant on The DaVinci Code, and if you go into this flick with that mentality you won't be disappointed. If you have read The DaVinci Code you might roll your eyes at some of the similarities but can appreciate this variation on a theme. If you haven't read Code you will still have a fun ride! When Nicolas Cage makes an action film with Bruckheimer, many times the end result is solid. Maybe not hard-hitting, Oscar-caliber acting and writing, but definite prop-your-feet-up, turn-your-brain-off, and enjoy-the-popcorn entertainment. National Treasure is right alongside those really cool action flicks like The Rock and Gone in Sixty Seconds where you just sit back and enjoy. The clues leading our heroes (and villains) along this colonial scavenger hunt are fun to noodle through, and the performances from Nicolas Cage, Sean Bean, and John Voight help you suspend belief for two hours.

My hang-up's with the film aren't with its far-fetched devices, "historical inaccuracies" (Come on, folks, lighten up! If you nit-pick this flick on that angle, I guess you should also know the Nazis didn't go after the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail, and Eliot Ness did not face off with Al Capone after bringing him down for tax evasion!), or for the blatant Code rip-off's. The writing in National Treasure was extremely sharp and clever -- for the most part. I was a little annoyed at the canned dialogue coming from Justin Bartha, playing the goofy, quirky sidekick. At times, he made me laugh, but most of the time I cringed whenever he opened his mouth, especially when he said something that was supposed to be "hip and cool". There was also a romance thrown in for kicks. Hey, brainy blonde (played by Diane Kruger, who looks a lot hotter in this movie than when she played Helen in Troy?) matching wits with swashbuckling treasure hunter... what are you going to do? Still, the romance comes across contrived in comparison to the clues left behind for Kruger and Cage.

Despite its flaws, National Treasure was a two-hour trip that I would not mind taking again. This obvious DaVinci Code-inspired adventure has all the Bruckheimer touches -- slow motion moments of suspense, explosions, and high-tech toys that I could only wish would find their way into my Christmas stocking -- and doesn't take itself too seriously. Provided you accept this movie will not receive an endorsement from the History Channel and just roll with it, you'll walk away thoroughly entertained.