I was a big fan of the first National Treasure. I really dislike Nic Cage. Which is a shame, because I loved Raising Arizona, however, we also get Snake Eyes, Face Off, 8MM, The Rock, Con Air, Ghost Rider, Next, and Matchstick Men. But here was National Treasure one, where he wasn't playing a guy too cool for words, or a tough, and the story moved quickly enough, that I didn't mind his performance at all. I was watching Benjamin Gates, not Nic Cage as...
But today I'm talking about National Treasure II: Book of Secrets, I wanted you to know where I was coming from. It's not bad. Its not nearly as "charming" as the original, infact, it follows the formulaic rules of a sequel pretty closely. But since the original is so strong, this one is not too bad.
The chemistry between all of the original, returning players is great. You can tell they easily pick up where they left off in the original. I felt the transition between movies one and two is pretty smooth, and they quickly introduce plot points that take Benjamin Gates out of a comfortable position (noted historian, boyfriend, and prestigious family) and put him at odds. Because frankly, if he suddenly had access to all of the materials he needed, the caper would not be that much fun.
However here's where the formula rears its ugly head. As with many other sequels, it feels as if they opened up the outline of the original script, highlighted large chunks, and simply rewrote them. It's not awful, but its clearly a copy of the first's formula. Now that he is on good terms with his father, they introduce his mother, to add family discord. They made the treasure bigger, the stakes higher and the puzzles more complicated. The biggest thing I loved about the first movie is that the clues were taken from everyday, or easily accessible sources. I could go visit the Declaration of Independence, I can look at the back of a $20 bill, I can look up the Silence Dogoode letters online. Yes, creative freedom was expressed, but it had an edge of real-world tie-in, that genuinely encouraged a spike in American History interest. In this second movie, the clue locations are fictional or obscure. I had never heard of the President's Book of Secrets, the Queen's desk, or the Native American engraving, but then again, some of the artifacts and clues in the first one were fictional... yadda yadda, it's not worth going over.
I felt that there were some jokes retread, but overall it's a decent sequel. It could have been much worse. And after further thought, the decisions the producers made to set up the story were probably on the smart side.
Bonus Features Director Turteltaub explains in the intro to the deleted scenes, that sometimes the movie is just too long, and a subsquent 30 second scene, can advance the story and replace a 20 minute scene. So he shares a few scenes that aren't terrible (or belonging on the cutting room floor), but simply made the movie more trim when excised. I enjoyed these the most. The outtakes were silly, as they're meant to be.
The locations feature, and making-of documentary featuring interviews with the director and stars were worth checking out. Like the Bourne movies, they actually visited and filmed the locations such as London, Paris, and Mount Rushmore for the film. Yes, this was a Disney, money-driven venture, but it's not bad, and you can tell everyone had fun making it.
The two-disc set of National Treasure: Book of Secrets is available from Amazon.com.