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National Treasure’ anything but buried gold

Brandon Hollihan | Tuesday, November 30, 2004

“National Treasure” is as clichéd as any movie that concerns itself with uncovering ancient artifacts in the name of public good, all while fending off foreign bad guys and getting your own government to hate you. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out over 20 years ago, and studios are still using the same formula to make a cheap profit.But at least “National Treasure” isn’t afraid to hide the fact that it’s recycling the same material again, just as long as its audience understands this and enjoys the capers of the treasure-hunters. The cast for “National Treasure” is actually quite solid, given the hackneyed plotline: archeologist Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) descends from a family bred to believe that the founding fathers of the United States left clues to the burial of a priceless treasure all across the world. Teaming up with Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Ian Howe (Sean Bean), he travels to the Arctic Circle to begin searching for clues regarding the treasure. After Herr Howe and his cronies turn on Poole and Gates, the pair escapes and heads to Washington, D.C. to warn officials of a plan by Ian to steal the Declaration of Independence, which apparently contains another clue leading to the treasure. Of course, no one takes them seriously – most notably Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), protector of the National Archives. Ultimately, Gates has no choice but to steal the Declaration himself to ensure its safety, and ends up dragging Abigail alongside himself and Poole as they race against Ian towards the treasure’s whereabouts.The decision to make a PG version of the film is very smart; there is plenty of action to keep adults interested, but it won’t offend younger viewers. For example, instead of killing the security guards at the Archives, the bad guys rely on taser guns to knock them out. The bad guys, obviously, are blessed with the ability to not hit Gates at point blank range with a semi automatic pistol, but what else can we expect from a standardized action film?All the actors in this film turn in decent performances, but they still seem uninspired. Bartha was really difficult to watch at times because he is forced into the clichéd role of the comic sidekick, working too hard to get laughs from the audience. You wonder, though, what he really could have done with a better part. Bean, too, has had more interesting roles in the past, and he deserves better than the carbon copy villain he plays in this film. Cage, meanwhile, has played the unlikely action hero a bit too often, and he’s running out of tricks.”National Treasure” won’t come across as anything new to its audience, but it has some good moments, and the tour of American monuments is pretty interesting to watch unfold. ‘Tis the season, indeed, for taking a break from weekend shopping, catching a matinee at the mall’s cinema and giving your brain cells a couple of hours of rest. At least for that purpose, “National Treasure” will provide some temporary escape from reality.