The characters are underdeveloped -- scratch that, too -- completely undeveloped.
Still, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is an entertaining, exciting and delightfully dumb movie in the finest Saturday matinee tradition.
This sequel to the equally far-fetched National Treasure finds the intrepid treasure hunters on the trail of yet another load of legendary loot. This time it's a lost city of gold and, as in the first film, finding it means all sorts of well-intended illegality, daring escapes and puzzle puzzlings that make the Sunday Sudoku seem tame in comparison. It's sort of like an Indiana Jones adventure for crossword fans.
What's amazing about this film is the cast. Not only does it feature the once-great Nicolas Cage as headhunter Benjamin Franklin Gates and Jon Voight as his harried father, Patrick Henry Gates, it also has Harvey Keitel, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris and the enormously underrated Bruce Greenwood.
With a cast like that, all sorts of dramatic tension might be expected. That's not the case, though, and the talented cast must be given credit and praise for that. The actors understand that the purpose of a National Treasure film is never to plumb the dark depths of the soul but rather to find some interesting faces and places against which the spectacular and silly whirlwind of events might play.
Sometimes it's good to invest in a film, to study, analyze and anguish over montage and metaphor. Other times, well, it's sort of nice to turn off the brain and go with the flow. Book of Secrets is a movie with flow.
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WHAT: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
STUDIO: Walt Disney Video; $34.99
DVD EXTRAS: The funniest material has got to involve the filmmakers discussing how history plays an important part in the filmmaking process. I would counter that a total disregard for history played a more pivotal role.
THE VERDICT: ***1/2 out of *****