National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007)

(In theaters, December 2007) It’s not high cinema, and it’s not even great genre entertainment, but National Treasure 2 manages to hit the same sweet spot than its predecessor in terms of contemporary adventure, historical lore, Nicolas Cage craziness and sarcastic quips. As this adventure trots around Washington, Paris, London and Montana, it’s hard to resist being swept up with this infectious brand of blockbuster slickness. There are a number of clunkers in the mix (Ed Harris sleepwalks through the film with a Southern accent; some of the early setup is laborious; Geek-boy isn’t as geeky, nor as amusing, as in the first film) and the action scenes don’t work as well as they should, but then there are a handful of scenes that redeem the entire thing: The “book of secrets” concept is rich in possibilities, the London car chase is fun and the series’ overall passion for history is a refreshing change of pace from the usual brand of mass-market anti-intellectualism. The biggest problem with the film is that it occasionally suggest how much better it could be with just a few tweaks: An action-minded director, a more memorable female lead and a screenwriter with more attention for coherence could have brought much more to the film. But while we’re waiting for National Treasure 3: Page 46, there’s still plenty to like here. It’s a perfect end-of-year chaser after so many self-important Oscar-bait motion pictures.

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