Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some treasure should stay buried…

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
1 ½ stars out of Four

Ever wonder why all the “Rocky” sequels were so lousy compared to the original? Besides the “Rocky single-handedly defeats communism” plots?

Here’s why: the first “Rocky” was an underdog story. And in order to try to recapture the magic of the original, each sequel had to find a new way to put Rocky back in the underdog position, even if he was living in a multi-million dollar mansion, driving a Ferrari, and enjoying the side effects of anabolic steroids. Of course, these efforts became more and more absurd, until suddenly you had Rocky in a street fight with a kid twenty years his junior in “Rocky V”.

Here’s my point: “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” tries to do the same thing. In the first one, you had Nicholas Cage, a career fortune hunter trying to overcome a negative family stigma and win over the pretty blond while searching for a long-lost treasure that was hidden away deep in the earth. At the end of the movie, he found the astronomically huge fortune, and rode off into the sunset with the blond to live in the fairytale mansion. (His sidekick got the Ferrari).

Now in “National Treasure II: Pretty Much the Same Exact Movie”, the folks at Disney are trying to make Rocky the underdog again. Nicholas Cage is back trying to restore the family name (an ancestor has been accused of being part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln), win the blond (she kicked him out of the fairy tale house for no apparent reason), and find the buried treasure (the “Book of Secrets” leads to the legendary City of Gold, which for some reason is deep underground instead of, say, in Guatemala).

It’s the exact same thing.

Of course most people won’t notice, because this movie is supposed to be a traditional brainless action popcorn movie. I’ll admit I enjoyed the first (I though of it as “DaVinci Code” for people who didn’t read), mostly because Diane Kruger (the blond) is pretty good looking, and to a degree I enjoyed the second…until I realized it was the exact same movie (subbing Ed Harris for Sean Bean) and started feeling depressed that Nicholas Cage doesn’t do stuff like “Moonstruck” and “Raising Arizona” anymore.

Bottom line? It’s a dollar movie. (Actually a dollar-fifty. I think the price at Sugarhouse went up.)

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is rated PG (really!) for over-the-top action, annoying one-liners from the sidekick, the distracting blond, and the funny feeling that you’ve seen the guy that plays the President before (he plays JFK in “Thirteen Days”).