‘National Treasure’ is a fun adventure film, with an equally fun DVD to boot

[rating=3]Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, Christopher Plummer
Director(s): Jon Turtletaub
Writer(s): Story by Jim Kouf, Oren Aviv, Charles Segars; Screenplay by Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley

Nicolas Cage steals the Constitution of the United States in 'National Treasure'
Nicolas Cage steals the Constitution of the United States in ‘National Treasure’

It’s funny sometimes how a movie can be so preposterous, yet manage to still remain fun and entertaining that you enjoy it regardless. That’s the best way to describe my experience watching the National Treasure DVD this past weekend.

The story itself is rather over the top, more often than not stretching the limits of believability. But the snappy dialogue, great chemistry among the stars, and the silliness of the plot really help make you just sit back and relax your brain. You’re better off not really considering whether or not much of the story is realistic, just enjoy the ride.

National Treasure follows Ben Gates’ search for the historic treasure of the Masons. Long since hidden through a series of vague clues, most believe it does not exist. But the secret of the treasure has been passed down through generations of the Gates family, and Ben Gates has dedicated his life to finding it.

After discovering an important clue in a wooden ship buried in the North Pole, Gates learns that a map revealing the location of the treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. But just as he makes this important discovery, Gates is betrayed by his partner for the past two years (Sean Bean), and nearly killed.

Knowing that his former partner plans to steal the Declaration, and possibly destroy it, Gates decides he must steal the historic document before his ex partner does. With the help of a computer geek, he manages to get his hands on the fabled map, and then it’s a race through several historic locales in Philadelphia and New York to find the treasure.

The story races through the first few scenes in order to get to film’s key moment, which is the theft of the Declaration of Independence. Much of this all comes off as ludicrous, but like I said, you have to let your brain take a snooze here. Sure, it’s basically preposterous, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

Much of National Treasure’s charm comes through the banter between Nicolas Cage’s Ben Gates and his sidekick, the computer-savvy Riley Poole, played by Justin Bartha. Their exchanges are funny and snappy, showing a rare kind of chemistry between the two actors. This is highlighted by Diane Kruger, who comes into the story as Cage’s love interest. This trio really helps you forgive the film’s flights of fancy.

Aside from the sequence surrounding the theft of the Declaration, the rest of the film is surprisingly low key. There are a few chases, but none of them are terribly elaborate, and the climactic action is also surprisingly low key. For a Jerry Bruckheimer film, you expect a lot of over the top, explosive action. Here we’re given some tame action sequences, but ultimately they fit in with the tone of the film.

Now, regardless of how you may or may not feel about National Treasure, it is impossible to deny that this DVD is probably the most inventive one to come down the pike in quite some time. Keeping in the spirit with the movie itself, the “treasure” of special features found on the DVD are uncovered through various clues you receive upon watching the special features.

When you first visit the bonus section of the disc, you’re only given a small sampling of features (deleted scenes, one behind the scenes doc, etc.). They are good, but you may see them as being slightly dry. Plus, the back of the DVD case suggests there are more features.

In order to unlock more special features, you need to gather up all the clues. These clues come in pairs of letters you get upon watching certain featurettes. These clues are saved on the disc, and once you have them all, you need to unscramble the letters and figure out what they spell. Now, it’s really not that difficult to do, but once you do it you’ll be given access to more special features.

I attended a special presentation by Disney a few months back about this, and honestly thought it was pretty clever. And now that I’ve gotten a chance to actually do it, it does make the DVD viewing experience a little more interactive. Plus, as you get deeper into the DVD’s bonus material, the features get more interesting.

National Treasure is a fun ride, one that you can easily share as a family since much of the action is pretty tame. And the DVD’s special gimmicks help make viewing the entire DVD a fun experience.

Rated: PG
Run Time: 2 hrs., 11 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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