National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets

What Is It?

The Di Vinci Code book and movie created a national hunger for historical treasure hunting and a large group of people who didn’t want to see it done “that way”. Disney saw the market and created a “safe” version that still involved Knights Templar and secret societies, but mostly dealt with American History instead of the more controversial religious kind. Then, according to IMDB.com, when the film came back as PG instead of the intended PG-13 they released it under Disney instead of Touchtone and advertised it as a family film.

This product stars Nicolas Cage as an explorer treasure hunter who knows everything about American History. Like Dan Brown‘s hero, Cage’s Ben (Franklin) Gates is caught in espionage that puts his historical knowledge to the test, while inadvertently turning several groups, including the US Government, against him. Thus, we get an Indiana Jones style adventure in America with more archeology and less adventure.

How Was It?

It was what it was. Nowhere near as good as the Di Vinci Code, though not as openly offensive. This is just a formula film that suffers in comparison to everything else it looks like, not to mention everything else Jerry Bruckheimer has done lately. (Pirates of the Caribbean, DeJaVu, all three CSI‘s)

Nicolas Cage is a fun actor and in films like this and Ghost Rider, he gives a “Wink Wink” performance that tells us “Don’t worry, I know it’s silly too.”

Is It Good For Children?

That’s the selling point from Disney’s perspective. Still the three characters that we are supposed to like use the Lord’s name as their cuss word of choice. There is also a long scene of two characters putting lemon juice on the back of the constitution. Obviously this is to dull to take the time it needs for the plot points, so they have the attractive blond woman (Diane Kruger) in a very low cut dress and spend a long time showing her leaning over the table. Younger children may also have problem understanding the “breaking the law because it is the right thing to do” theme. (That is discussed more in the next section.)

What About Spiritual Issues?

I don’t know a whole lot about the Mason organization, but according to this movie it is the best thing going and the true American religion, at least in the minds of all the founding fathers. (I’m not sure if that is good or bad or even noteworthy, but it was strongly presented in this film.)

Other than that, there are a couple of moral issues. First, Ben plans on stealing the constitution to save it. They do make sure he is pushed into a corner and has no other options, but this still may come off as situational ethics. The nice thing about this theft, is that Ben also plans, though he would prefer not to, on going to jail for a long time for what he had done. To some extent that is the attitude of Daniel and Shadrack, Meshack and Ebendigo in the Bible. Still, none of the Bible characters tried to negotiate out of the consequences and none of them got out of paying for what they had done. Ben of course sights the Constitution for justification of his actions and not the Bible story.

More problematic is Ben’s love life. His father (Jon Voight) sees his son with a lady and asks if she’s pregnant, and while she is not, and at that point is not even in a relationship with Ben, the viewer is left not sure if Ben lives his life such that the dad would have a legitimate reason to ask such a question. Later, Ben explains that his dad is a “prude” and and is so because he thinks Ben’s love life has been to “cavalier”, simply because he may have said “I love you” to more than one woman in his life. At the end of the movie (spoiler) Ben is living with the girl, but there is no mention of marriage and no one has a ring.

What Is Your Recommendation?

This silly movie was not made to be a family film and changing the ad campaign did not change the content of the film. With the fuzzy look at stealing and breaking the law, I would be very careful with young children and make sure you talked through the issues. Between the cussing, the possibly inappropriate relationships and a scene spent looking down a girls shirt, this film just is not worth it.

According to Screenit.com, the sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, has Diane Kruger showing “varying amounts of cleavage in various outfits during the film.” and “To distract a White House official…[Kruger’s Character] shows some cleavage and purposefully crawls on all fours in her skirt — pretending to look for a lost earring.”

Screenit.com also reports that they still use God’s name as their cuss word, that the justification’s for breaking the law is even more flimsy and that the girl Ben was living with at the end of the first film is in fact, just his girlfriend.

With the promise of another lackluster adventure with all the same negative themes and visuals amplified, I have decided that this series is mislabeled and I just stayed home.

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One Response to “National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets”

  1. Kate Samuels Says:

    Muuuuuuch better than the second movie.
    The second movie confused me. I didn’t understand how finding the Indian gold city would help prove Gates’ innocence.

    Kate

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