National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Justin Bartha, Harvey Keitel

Director: Jon Turteltaub

The film: The first instalment in the National Treasure franchise took the world by surprise. The critics said no one should bother, but they were wrong: the public in the end found about 350 million reasons to like it (in US dollars, no less).

And it was pure popcorn, coming flush with a wildly improbable plot premise (a treasure map hidden on the back of the US Declaration of Independence), Nicolas Cage hamming it up like there's no tomorrow and a support cast crammed with cliches.

After counting all that cash there was only one way the studio was ever going to go: towards a sequel. The incredible thing, though, was that they seemed to be the only ones excited by the idea. It's unlikely you'll ever see a more lethargic bunch of actors, or a less inspired or keenly directed production.

The main players return and this time around the story follows claims that a relative of Cage's character might have had something to do with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the hiding of, yes, another treasure. John Voight plays his dad, who looks like he couldn't care less, Diane Kruger (above, with Cage) is the love interest who has (wisely) tried to move on, and Justin Bartha is the wisecracking sidekick who has outstayed his welcome and simply become annoying.

Director Jon Turteltaub moves the action along at breakneck speed, and leaves it to Cage's lengthy, regular, monologues to explain what is going on. Without them, you'd be left spinning.

There's a procession of guest appearances - from Ed Harris as an inconsequential villain to Helen Mirren as Cage's mum, who looks astonished to find herself involved in such a mess. None of them can help cover up the fact that it's filmmaking by the numbers, a cynical and utterly unentertaining blockbuster that has a lot more money at its disposal than sense.

And would someone please throw Cage a bone. After the spate of clangers he's appeared in recently, his Oscar-winning effort in Leaving Las Vegas seems such a distant, dark memory.

The extras: The director and Voight get together on the commentary but only Turteltaub shows any enthusiasm for the task, offering up the surprising fact that some parts of the script were actually written during shooting (and using it as an excuse, perhaps?).

The extra disc is a boon for those interested in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking as its featurettes focus on everything to do with production, from set design to makeup. There are also out-takes and a blooper reel.

The verdict: They should have quit while they were ahead.