National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Starring Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, and Helen Mirren. Rated PG.

If there's a redeeming factor to the sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets–a virtual carbon copy of 2004's National Treasure–it's that Nicolas Cage seems to be putting a flicker of effort into his role as globetrotting treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates. It may not seem like much in the face of what could be the most implausible mainstream movie of the year, but Cage actually appears less detached than in his last few movies. Not that he manages anything resembling charm or believability, but at least trying to keep up with a supporting cast that includes such legendary scene stealers as Helen Mirren, Jon Voight, and Harvey Keitel.

Unfortunately, the absurd script (involving a secret book hidden in the White House that holds the key to absolution for a Gates ancestor caught up in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, not to mention finding a lost city of gold) manages to drag down just about everybody. Even the normally reliable Ed Harris–playing a treasure-lusting villain–manages to turn in a hokey performance.

Okay, so why not just enjoy what's clearly meant to be a harmless romp? (That's obviously what Mirren and Voight are trying to do as Ben's crusty parents.) I suppose it's easy enough to ignore that there is zero chemistry between Cage and Diane Kruger, or the way our heroes poke around high-security places like Buckingham Palace as if they were looking for a stray wrench in a back-yard garage. But how can you overlook the brainless ease with which Gates solves seemingly impossible clues? By the time he works out a cryptic puzzle by sprinkling bottled water on Mount Rushmore, all you can do is laugh.

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