So, Disney decided to release National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets in a fancy 2-disc edition, chock full of special features. This seems like a nice idea, but it’s rather like dressing your Aunt Mildred up in Vera Wang. Yeah, you love her, even though her meatloaf is dry and tasteless as Saharan sand, but it’s a bit ridiculous. Ruffles? She looks like a puffed up blowfish. Thigh-high slit? She looks like an orange impaled on two sticks with, for no reason you can fathom, a naughty paisley scarf tied around it.
National Treasure 2 is a light, brainless piece of summer entertainment that doesn’t merit any further insight, background, or blathering. It’s fun enough but totally lacking in anything memorable or meaningful, like a bowl of jell-o on a warm summer day. Sure, the plot’s holier than a block of Swiss, but no special feature is going to fix that.
National Treasure 2 is a historical treasure-hunt, like the first movie. Shenanigans centering on Lincoln’s assassination provide clues to the location of the lost City of Gold. Nicolas Cage chases down these clues with various sidekicks and assistants; he even kidnaps the president at one point. And the film has one almost brilliant line: “Sir, dismount that banister!” I chuckled.
Jon Voight, in the featurette, claims that the movie is “smart” and “clever,” and it certainly tries to be, but it’s so full of patently ridiculous logic and plot holes that it feels mostly like something written by a bright high school senior who has done a bunch of pleasure reading on conspiracy theories. It’s rarely stupid, but it’s also generally insipid and unrealistic in its use of history.
Sure, we can suspend our disbelief to enjoy the movie, and the flick is entertaining, but the movie never makes its conspiracies remotely plausible, never makes me wonder, “Gee, could that be true?”
Another historical-clue-based book and film, The Da Vinci Code , sometimes transcends the mystery genre to make the audience wonder if at least some of its claims might be true. This movie never does; I don’t think it really intends to, but its a limitation of the film that keeps it clearly within the realm of light summer fare: a turkey club on a wheat roll with two slices of provolone.
Thus, all these special features seem unnecessary, a lot of whipped topping piled high on a piece of toast. Some of them are patently silly, like the fact that, upon loading the disk, it presents you with a screen with Rushmore in the background and a highlighted bird in the background. You have to click the bird to get through to the menu, which is apparently some DVD designer’s nod toward the movie’s puzzling-solving premise. However, the bird is already highlighted, and there’s absolutely nothing else you could do with the screen other than click the bird. It’s lame.
Then, when you get to the deleted scenes, producer/director Jon Turteltaub feels the need to expostulate for several minutes about why scenes get deleted from movies. Imagine your best 3rd-grade-teacher-explaining-something voice: sometimes movies are too long, and stuff needs to be cut, or sometimes a scene ends up seeming dumb or redundant. Well, duh!
The featurette on the Knights of the Golden Circle (an extremist Southern group at the end of, and after, the Civil War that wanted to make New Mexico into a slave nation) featurette is interesting because it relates to actual history, so I was happy to learn more about that.
The featurette on the creation of the president’s book of secrets is also nifty: they actually looked back at handwriting samples and forged plausible entries from many of our presidents. But the other featurettes are self-congratulatory back slapping, unnecessary investigations of scenes that weren’t all that impressive anyway. It’s hard to imagine someone passionate enough about the film to really want to watch them. I think you’d have to be very bored.
The bloopers reel is full of people slipping slightly and forgetting their lines; there’s not actually anything funny there.
I personally wish that “special editions” like this, with long lists of special features, would be saved for films that merit such navel-gazing. Otherwise these editions just force critics like me to watch a bunch of useless junk, when we could have spent these several hours driving to the local Farmer’s market, sampling wine, selecting fresh chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms and parmesan, and choosing a variety of fudges to eat tonight with my wine. Instead, I’ll be having a plain cheese sandwich for dinner. We don’t even have sliced ham.
Yes, I’m hungry. And bitter. And I blame this DVD for that.
The Film Itself: 6 out of 10
The DVD Features: 4 out of 10