Directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, this rollercoaster action adventure stars Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, an archaeologist from the seventh generation of a family of treasure-seekers who have all shared the same quest: to discover the whereabouts of an old war chest full of gold hidden by the founding fathers in the last days of the Revolutionary War. Ben must work against the clock to unravel the clues embedded in the original drafts of two key historical documents - the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence - before his criminal ex-partner Ian Howe (Sean Bean), or the FBI - led by Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) - get their mitts on the loot. Helping him in his quest is beautiful archivist Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger).
Like a Hardy Boys mystery on steroids, National Treasure offers popcorn thrills and enough boyish charm to overcome its rampant silliness. Although it was roundly criticized as a poor man's rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Da Vinci Code, it's entertaining on its own ludicrous terms, and Nicolas Cage proves once again that one actor's infectious enthusiasm can compensate for a multitude of movie sins. The contrived plot involves Cage's present-day quest for the ancient treasure of the Knights Templar, kept secret through the ages by Freemasons past and present. Finding the treasure requires the theft of the Declaration of Independence (there are crucial treasure clues on the back, of course!), so you can add "caper comedy" to this Jerry Bruckheimer production's multi-genre appeal. Nobody will ever accuse director Jon Turtletaub of artistic ambition, but you've got to admit he serves up an enjoyable dose of PG-rated entertainment, full of musty clues, skeletons, deep tunnels and harmless adventure in the old-school tradition. It's a load of hokum, but it's fun hokum, and that makes all the difference. --Jeff Shannon
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