Having pricked his fingers trying to slice King Arthur into a family-friendly cut, über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is back panning for box-office gold with a tried and trusted formula: sneering villain, goody-gumdrops hero, Nicolas Cage's quizzical eyebrows. Tick 'em all off the chart right now...
The story of Cage's driven artefact-finder tries to prove itself a worthy alternative to the long-overdue fourth instalment of Indiana Jones. Indeed, it's as if Bruckheimer spotted a gap in the market and dived to plug it. But while there is some fun to be had on Gates' quest (flying the Jerry flag buys you some shiny gadgetry and fast car chases), nothing ever compares. Our heroes go through the motions, racing between Washington, New York and - - oooh! - - Philadelphia as allegiances swap, clues are uncovered and vital documents traded.
Soon, fatigue sets in - - you've seen and heard it all a hundred times and While You Were Sleeping director Jon Turteltaub does very little to dress it up. The one moment he chooses to go all CSI - to explain how Gates and co intend to pinch the Declaration - the sudden injection of whizzy CG-zooms is out of place in this pedestrian trail.
In its favour, the choice to play down the action element is refreshing (there's even less explosive content here than in Pirates Of The Caribbean) and Cage is effortlessly charming, offering another of his non-standard leading men. Sean Bean, too, delivers a rugged, charismatic turn as his bastardly nemesis.
Everyone else, though, is strictly on blockbuster autopilot. Harvey Keitel phones in a near-cameo as an FBI agent, while Diane Kruger proves that Troy wasn't a fluke: she really can't act. Gigli survivor Justin Bartha is the only supporting player to really distinguish himself, handling the "comic relief" tag with quip-filled ease. Of course, National Treasure doesn't aspire to high art, just popcorn entertainment. A shame, then, a certain Dr Jones did it first. And did it much, much better.
Slick and undemanding, National Treasure heads from A to Z without troubling the adrenal glands. Not bad, but not a patch on Pirates.
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