National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (DVD)

Doesn't anyone employ an editor any more? There Will Be Blood is heading towards the three hour mark, Definitely, Maybe weighs in at a padded 111 minutes and this, the National Treasure sequel, breaks the two hour barrier. Christ, Paris Hilton couldn't have watched all three in prison...

National Treasure was a dumbly enjoyable, Boys Own-style adventure, a sort of modern day Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code meets puzzle-solving video game. Unsurprisingly, Book of Secrets follows the same formula and the same team as they attempt to uncover the truth behind Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Unfortunately, it also adds uncomfortable levels of chest-thumping, God-Bless-America jingoism that really won't impress anyone outside that nation. Particularly when it's coupled with the portrayal of London as a collection of painfully posh people, gormless coppers and gor blimey, ain't we a nation of loveable binge-drinking proles.

Ben Gates (Cage) and his father Patrick are presenting a lecture about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the semi-heroic role Ben's great-grandfather Thomas Gates played and how there are 18 missing pages from trigger-happy John Wilkes Booth's diary. At the climax of the lecture, a myserious chap stands up and announces that he has a missing page. As the man comes into sight, he reveals himself as Mitch Wilkinson (Harris) and that the page suggests Thomas might not be the hero the Gates family thinks he is. Indeed, it looks like Thomas might have had a hand in organising Lincoln's assassination. Thus begins a race around the world, finding clues in Paris and London and the Oval Office, in order to clear Thomas's name and, of course, find a lot of gold. Come on, there had to be gold. Would you watch a film about a 143-year old libel case?

The puzzle-solving is a lot of fun and I'm the first to admit I'm a sucker for that stuff, conspiracy theories and the like. It's made to a formula, to be sure, but it's a good watchable formula, from the bickering (Cage and love interest Kruger are mid-split) to the ancient texts, car chases and cleverly hidden clues. It's just that the wide, wide vein of God Bless America, erm, dangly bits undermines most of the fun stuff. There's some enjoyment to be had with the Book of Secrets, a dossier updated by each President of all the dodgy cover-ups — Area 51, the grassy knoll, the moon landing, etc — but the whole thing leaves you with a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth and, with its unnecessary running time, a dull, numb sensation in the buttocks. Quite what attracted Ed Harris and Helen Mirren is a mystery but I suspect that had something to do with gold as well...



Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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