National Treasure: Book of Secrets Directed by Jon Turteltaub Reviewed: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Cage Match: Nicolas’ light approach meshes with National Treasure’s cast.

Don’t find it too surprising that Helen Mirren signed on for National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The gal probably suffered, as we all did, from queen overload by the time this opportunity for a little follow-up fun presented itself. And she no doubt was hoodwinked, as many of us were, by the notables peppering the cast of 2004’s rather stupid original. Jon Voight. Harvey Keitel. And Nicolas Cage—well, he once was an interesting actor who chose solid films, and the plots of this series are driven by American history, so perhaps this is a higher-minded blockbuster, his atonement for Next? Oh, Helen. You can at least be proud that you look fabulous as Emily, a University of Maryland professor and mother to Ben Gates (Cage), treasure hunter, hair-dyer, and trivia-spewing piece of cardboard. Voight is Ben’s father—­doddering, awkward—and whereas the first hunt was spurred by generations of Gates-family conspiring and code-breaking, this one has something to do with a smear campaign against Ben’s great-great-granddaddy, whom one Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris, trying on a Southern-by-way-of-Brooklyn accent) accuses of being involved in the Lincoln assassination. But Ben’s new goal isn’t just PR-oriented: It has something to do with the lost city of gold, though by the time all the requisite clues are solved, lives are risked, and romances rekindled, the connection is tenuous at best. Ultimately, Book of Secrets—a très hush-hush presidential tome of all our country’s dirty laundry is also involved—is an embarrassingly by-the-numbers rehash of the first National Treasure, lighter on the swirly, emotion-cuing music but still well-trafficked in ridiculous feats and worse dialogue. Diane Kruger is back to help class up the joint as documents expert/love interest Abigail; so too, unfortunately, is Justin Bartha as Ben’s sidekick Riley, who’s as wah-wah irritating as brilliant-but-bumbling sidekicks come. I won’t be unfair—there’s one cool set piece, a floating floor that requires the hunters to do a balancing act to keep them from falling to their deaths. But I won’t lie, either—they each could have slipped and screamed till the thud, and I probably would have found it more thrilling than any of the Mission: Impossible rip-offs that came before it.

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