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Sequel to `National' not really a treasure.

Byline: Daniel M. Kimmel

COLUMN: MOVIE REVIEW

The season's amusement park ride is here. In the summer we get many movies like "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." For the holiday season, with so many movies jockeying for position for the upcoming Oscars, this is considered counterprogramming.

As in 2004's "National Secrets," it's an absurd story that invites you to sit back and go along for the ride. This time Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is off on another treasure hunt, set off when Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) reveals a missing page from John Wilkes Booth's diary that implicates Ben's great-grandfather in the Lincoln assassination. Naturally there are secret codes and hidden clues at national monuments - including Buckingham Palace and the White House - that have eluded everyone until Ben comes along.

Abigail (Diane Kruger), who was romantically involved with Ben at the end of the last film, has broken off with him. This means their bantering relationship growing into mutual feelings gets to play out all over again. Also returning for the chase are Ben's assistant Riley (Justin Bartha) and his father (Jon Voight). Even the FBI agent (Harvey Keitel) who chased him around the country in the last film is back. New to the lineup is Helen Mirren, as Ben's mother.

As with the first film, you have to believe two things to make the story work. First, that there is a vast underground treasure hidden near a U.S. landmark that no one has discovered. Here it's a "city of gold" supposedly hidden away by an Indian tribe centuries ago. Second, that in an age where you can't even bring a bottle of water past an airline security checkpoint, it's a breeze to break into the Oval Office, or kidnap the president (Bruce Greenwood), or examine secret documents at the Library of Congress.

If you can swallow that, the rest of the movie will be easy.

Perhaps what's truly amazing about these movies is that director Jon Turteltaub is able to gather such a stellar cast for these films. Cage, Voight, Mirren, Keitel and Harris are on holiday here after having done much more serious work elsewhere.

Since this is a shaggy dog story it's expected that not everything makes sense, and there's a bit of a mystery that isn't resolved at the end, when we're not permitted to hear a conversation between Ben and the president. They might as well have hung up a sign saying, "Set up for the next sequel."

`National Treasure: Book of Secrets'

* * 1/2

A Walt Disney Pictures presentation

Rating: PG for some violence and action

Running time: 2 hour, 4 minutes

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Helen Mirren, left, Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger in a scene from "National Treasure: Book Of Secrets."
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Title Annotation:ENTERTAINMENT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Dec 21, 2007
Words:458
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