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National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Collector’s Edition DVD Review

National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Collector’s Edition

May 20, 2008

Director: Jon Turteltaub,
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood, Helen Mirren,

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DVD Review

The first National Treasure film (2004) was something of a pleasant surprise – an inoffensive action/adventure film for the entire family that proved to be a bonafide box office hit. It also gave Nicolas Cage a much needed boost after a string of lackluster films. To be honest, he’s done nothing of merit since so it makes sense that he would sign on for a sequel. Sure enough, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) was a commercial success thus ensuring a cushy paycheck for Cage to last a few more films.

When Benjamin Gates (Cage) learns that his great-grandfather may have masterminded the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, he and his father (Voight) decide to clear their ancestor’s name. To add insult to injury, his girlfriend, Abigail Chase (Kruger), has kicked him out of their house and he’s now living with his dad. So, Ben enlists the help of his trusty assistant, Riley Poole (Bartha) to decipher a hidden code on John Wilkes Booth’s long lost diary page. The code hints at a treasure map located on one of the Statue of Liberties in existence.

Meanwhile, the Feds, led by Agent Sadusky (Keitel), the same one who went after Ben in the first film, investigate Mitch Wilkinson (Harris), the source of the diary page. It turns out that he’s a black marketer who is also interested in the map because it will lead to the Lost City of Gold. The scope of Book of Secrets is much larger as Ben and company follow a trail of clues that takes them to Paris, London (where they break into Buckingham Palace), and Mount Rushmore. Also thrown into the mix is Ben’s mother (Mirren) who helps her son decode an important clue and rekindle the romance with her estranged husband.

The cast acquits themselves just fine, playing their parts like consummate pros so that it doesn’t seem like they’re phoning it in which is certainly the temptation for a film like this one. To their credit, the cast looks like they are actually having fun traversing the globe looking for long lost treasure. As with the first film, there is a good mix of American history, action and problem solving as it chugs along like the efficient Jerry Bruckheimer production that it is, complete with anonymous, workman-like direction from Jon Turteltaub. It is the kind of family entertainment that has something for pretty much everyone even if it comes across as Indiana Jones-lite. Still, it’s a pleasant enough time waster – one that you’ll probably forget soon after the credits end.

Special Features:

The first disc has an audio commentary by director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight. The director talks about the acting choices that Nicolas Cage and Voight made in the first scene to show how their characters have changed between films. Turteltaub certainly knows his history and rattles off all kinds of historical factoids for a given scene. Voight speaks highly of his fellow actors and points out certain performance bits of theirs that he enjoys. Turteltaub tends to dominate the track while Voight chimes in occasionally.

The second disc starts off with five deleted scenes with introductions by Turteltaub. There is a bit more of the Mount Rushmore sequence involving a riddle about a hummingbird that ran too long and was condensed to two minutes in the final film. We also see more of Riley gaining access to the Buckingham Palace computers that allowed the actor to adlib. The best bit that should have been kept in was a scene where Ben tries to escape the Library of Congress via a skylight and his spotted by Agent Sadusky.

“Secrets of a Sequel” takes a look at how they approached this new film. The producers wanted to make it on a bigger scale with more difficult puzzles for our heroes to solve. The crucial factor in making this film was getting key cast members from the first one to return. The script wasn’t done when they started filming and the filmmakers rewrote it as they went along.

“The Book of Secrets: On Location” takes a look at the different locations all over the world where our heroes look for clues. They actually shot in Paris and London and we see footage of them shooting there.

“The Treasure Reel: Bloopers and Outtakes.” Cage hasn’t been this funny in years as he blows lines and goofs around on set with his co-stars. We even get to see the usually unflappable Ed Harris break character.

“Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase” examines how they pulled off this action sequence. We get an indication of just how much planning goes into something like this in order to make sure everything goes off as planned.

“Underground Action” takes a look at the film’s climactic action set pieces. The technicians and effects people show us how much of it was done with visual effects and practical sets.

“Evolution of a Golden City” examines the underground city made out of gold – how it was designed and then built on a soundstage.

“Knights of the Golden Circle” gives the lowdown of this extremist group and briefly details their agenda of provoking another Civil War.

“Cover Story: Creating the President’s Book” takes a look at the President’s Book of Secrets that is crucial to finding the City of Gold. We see how this particular prop was put together and chosen by the director.

Finally, there is “Inside the Library of Congress,” a fascinating look at the actual historical building in which they shot a key scene for the film. This extra really conveys a sense of history and some of the people who work there talk about just how much and the various kinds of information that is stored there.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 75%

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