As I guessed from the preview, NATIONAL TREASURE is your standard puzzle-solving mystery, cross-country chase and caper movie, with a little Indiana Jones ripoff thrown in for good measure. It aims for an all-ages audience, so don’t expect anything super clever or complicated. That said; the movie works for what is. It may not excel at exciting action set pieces, well-written characters or suspense, but it’s passable enough in all those areas to be easy and fun to watch. I was surprised that the movie is over two hours long because it seems to go by a lot faster, which is no easy task for something targeted at the younger crowd. On that note, the coincidence-filled plot may treat historical accuracy rather clumsily for anyone over a fifth grade level, but at least it attempts to make the subject seem cool and interesting for kids. (I remember the movies we were subjected to in American History class and I would much rather watch this.)
He’s definitely hit or miss, but since FACE/OFF I’ve been a Nic Cage fan and he worked for me as Benjamin Gates. It seems like he’s having fun, even though the role doesn’t require anything aside from running around and the occasional ludicrous line. (I seriously expected a rimshot after “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence!”) The rest of the cast doesn’t fair so well, however. Justin Bartha’s sidekick character was more annoying than funny, while Jon Voight and Sean Bean aren’t given much to do besides follow Cage around. Then there’s Diane Kruger, who works as the token eye candy historian, but her romance with Cage is probably even less believable than ease at which historical documents are stolen.
NATIONAL TREASURE is not a great movie (it barely registers as “good”), but it’s entertaining and harmless and I don’t regret watching it. I think that still counts as praise.
Bonus Treasure Hunt: The more bonus material you watch, the more clues you get to eventually unlock even more special features. Granted the “puzzles” are easy (you can probably guess the secret password right now if you tried), but the hunt might be a little tiresome for those of you who want to quickly watch the extras. Still, it’s mildly fun and in the spirit of the movie, so I’ll give it a pass. (Also, there’s clues and a cheat code in the booklet if you’re lazy.)
NATIONAL TREASURE on Location (11:17): Typical behind the scenes stuff and interviews. Only interesting nugget is that they consulted real (law abiding) thieves to determine how best to break in to the National Archives.
Deleted Scenes (7:47): Just two; neither of which makes Justin Bartha’s character any less annoying.
Opening Animatic (2:21): See the illustrated plans for the opening treasure/history montage, if you’re really, really bored.
Alternate Ending (1:50): I like the one in the movie better.
Treasure Hunters Revealed (9:32): Follow some real life treasure seekers from around the world. It’s a cool job, but obviously not as glamorous as the film portrays it
The Templar Knights (9:31): A look at the history and purpose of the Knights Templar.
Riley’s Decode This!: This puzzle game involves a variety of stuff from hieroglyphics to ocular clues. It’s in-depth but easy (you can guess most of the answers) and kids might find interesting. Sadly, it’s narrated by the annoying Riley character.
Trivia Track: If you unlock everything on the disc the big reward is a trivia track that’ll pop up little tidbits during the movie. Unfortunately, the info is shown as subtitles which can be a little distracting.
Additional Deleted Scenes (7:54): Not much of worth, including a scene that addresses a historical inaccuracy, a quick intro to Harvey Keitel, and a very disappointing strip club scene. There’s a reason these didn’t make the cut for the first DVD release.
Ciphers, Codes and Codebreakers (11:56): A look at cryptography throughout the years and a very general introduction to process of decoding. You get some interviews with real experts and real example of what they do. (Even the easy ones are a little too complicated for Jason.)
Exploding Charlotte (6:35): About half of this is already covered in the On Location featurette on the first disc. The other half shows you how they built the Charlotte set, which I didn’t particularly care about.
To Steal a National Treasure (5:46): A bit more on how they planned the heist scene, based on real security systems and expert advice.
On The Set of American History (6:08): A look at shooting at real historical sites in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Again, this was generally covered in the first disc.
Extra Tidbit: One of the security guards in this movie is named Mike Hawk. Say that three times fast.