Sequel to 2004’s National Treasure, we rejoin Nicholas Cage’s history detective who sets out to clear the name of his ancestor, implicated for the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Cue an American history lesson in which clues to the mystery are found in the statues of Liberty (yes, there are two), twin-desks in the White House and Buckingham Palace, inscriptions on Mount Rushmore and…the President’s Book of Secrets (that’s the one that cracked-up the trailer audiences).
Seeing Americans trying to make a puzzle out of only two-hundred years of history is amusing in its own way. And Nicholas Cage’s easygoing caricature is an entertaining enough tour guide. Add a bespectacled, there-for-laughs side-kick, an estranged wife and a father (Jon Voight) and you have a family-friendly comedy caper that will happily while away the half-term hols.
A couple of spectacularly-shot car chases liven things up for those not sold on history or histrionics. And the gadgetry and gung-ho bravado of the thing is breezily entertaining. But whereas National Treasure’s first film had a boo-hiss baddie in Sean Bean, Book of Secrets has an under-used Ed Harris who’s plot to get his hands on the titular book seems excessive.
On the plus side, Book of Secrets does – in its own way – have a go at making history fun. And the Indiana Jones action and comedy gloss – shot with a sheeny cinematography – makes this a perfectly decent two-hour entertainment. The waterlogged finale – almost entirely a rip-off of the first film – is, though, a bit underwhelming.
But this is a Disney film – no animals or people are harmed – and it's almost squeakily clean. And the Book of Secrets itself? It’s a book passed down from President to President which contains all the things America could never admit – alien landings, who really shot Kennedy (and Lincoln) and…..now that would be telling.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets scrapes the barrel – but, surprisingly enough, it’s a barrel worth scraping.