My Buddy is a Cage – ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets’ (2007)

Quick question: On average, what’s your run-of-the-mill secret lever maker earn in a year? I’ve yet to meet one with the profession, but the United States is COVERED in hidden doors and concealed switches. Someone’s making bank and I want in.

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How did we come to this, Benjamin Franklin Gates? How did we come to this? I can tolerate one hidden treasure trove and ignore the pervading absurdity of the first National Treasure, but even this title… I’m already skeptical. We begin with a flashback, this time to the Civil War. Another of Ben’s genius ancestors, Alexander Hamilton Gates (or something) decodes a cypher leading to a lost Indian city of gold. Tragically/obviously, Rutherford B. Gates is killed upon realizing he’s helped a Pro-Confederate Secret Society. But you’ll die a traitor!

I still don’t know how finding the Goldfingered version of Atlantis clears Ben’s great grandfather of anything, but one convoluted clue leads to another and sure enough, Ben, Riley & Co. need to get ahold of this book of secrets. The President’s Book is allegedly an actual thing, but I am officially disputing both its name as well as any and all of its purported secrets. If you’re interested though, it appears Yahoo! Voices has gotten away with murder on this one, so you’d better screenshot that ish before the FBI takes it down.

What worked in the original National Treasure was the script’s attention to details, the fact that as ludicrous as this trail of clues was, everything was hidden in obscurity, in artifacts and historical bits most of us had never heard of anyway. It was interesting and admittedly, kinda cool. It’s also artistically subtle by comparison now. Book of Secrets just lobs ideas in the general vicinity of shit even a Thai fisherman would know about — Mount Rushmore, the Statue(s) of Liberty, the Oval Office — and the way to get to the Book of Secrets hidden in the secret hole inside the secret drawer is always needlessly elaborate. Break into the Resolute Desk. Kidnap the President. Hydro-locate an ancient Indian city of gold. Distribute your weight on a constantly-shifting Mayan platform. All in a day’s work, really.

I remain a sucker for this as a continuing franchise. Hypocrite! I know. Book of Secrets does toss in some cute nods to the original. After JohnQuincyAdams Gates gets capped, Jon Turteltaub picks up the threads from last time. Ben has a profession that doesn’t involve stealing priceless artifacts; Abigail Chase, Ph.D, has upgraded to dating always hilarious White House aide, Ty Burrell; Best of all, comedic geek relief Riley Poole wrote a book off of Ben’s coat tails, and its cover bears more than a winking resemblance to The Da Vinci Code. But the little things so rarely elevate the terrible, and this is no exception. Of course kidnapping President Bruce Greenwood looks easy when 75% of the Secret Service is legally blind. And until now, I really thought better of Helen Mirren, here as Ben’s professor mother and Jon Voigt’s peppy ex-wife.

Apart from the return of Disney’s suspiciously polished live-action look, Nicolas Cage makes a triumphant escape from his cocoon of repression, sprouting wings and corkscrewing directly into the nearest light fixture. When Ben has to cause a distraction at Buckingham Palace with Diane Kruger, now his ex-girlfriend, think of “light fixture” as “basic human reaction.”

You don’t need to know Latin to understand how many deuses ex machina they cram onto the end of this beast. There’s the delusional sham of a Voigt/Mirren subplot where Ben’s parents get back together after 32 years of separation. Cage and Diane Kruger shack up again. Even baddie Ed Harris — just Sean Bean with more bullets and less hair — suddenly drops his revenge scenario on the Gates legacy. The unifying powers of American history, everyone!

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Want more Cage? You got it.

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