Directed by Jon Turteltaub, starring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha and Christopher Plummer.
No-brainer action films aren't anything new - indeed, you only need to look at the credits of producer Jerry Bruckheimer from the last decade for several vintage examples ('Armageddon', 'Gone in 60 Seconds', 'Bad Company', 'Bad Boys', 'Bad Boys II').
It's just that the makers of these movies seem to be trying less and less to find original ideas to dress up the action in. A runaway bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code', in itself far from a classic either, delighted millions with its reader friendly treasure hunt based on an alternative theory regarding the history of Christianity and the Catholic Church.
'National Treasure' lifts whole seams of the plot from Brown's religious thriller and repackages them in a US context. The Vatican becomes Washington, holy artefacts become the US Declaration of Independence, and the treasure holding the secret of the meaning of life becomes, well, treasure. Like, gold and stuff, dude.
Cage, who has done serious roles in films like 'Adaptation' and 'Leaving Las Vegas' in his time, is fully on auto pilot mode here as Benjamin Franklin Gates, the third-generation treasure hunter. The film begins as it means to go on, in rather hackneyed fashion, with an elderly man telling his grandson the family's big secret, which naturally is hidden in a box in the attic.
Despite his father's (Voight) best wishes, Gates grows up and picks up the family search for the treasure where Dad left off, and soon runs into more adversity than he expected. No surprise there.
So, in order to protect the world's greatest treasure (which is located in the US, of course), Gates, along with willing sidekick Riley (Bartha), has to steal the US Declaration of Independence, which holds the clue to the next clue which holds the key to the next clue, and so on.
A blonde woman (Kruger) also gets shoehorned into tagging along for the Indiana Jones-style adventure. Readers of 'The Da Vinci Code' certainly won't find any trace of the sacred feminine theory in her role as the objectified female who is continually told to 'shut up' by the boys along the way. Very Christian.
Harvey Keitel swings by as a besuited detective chasing both Gates and his nemesis, which is of course played by an Englishman in the form of Sean Bean. Keitel struts around barking orders as if he came straight off the set of 'Pulp Fiction' as Mr Wolf.
Needless to say, Gates eventually overcomes all odds and unlocks the 2,000 year-old mystery, which ultimately is found in a hole in the ground in New York – a subliminal reference to 11 September 2001, perhaps?
It would be unfair to say that this film wasn't occasionally somewhat entertaining, but anyone looking for a movie that even mildly challenges their intellect would do well to stay far away from this Saturday afternoon filler.