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National Treasure

Brace yourselves, action fans. You are about to fall victim to one of the biggest marketing dupes to unveil this year, and this is no exaggeration. If you’ve seen the trailer for John Turteltaub’s National Treasure, you might find going into the film this weekend with the preconceived expectation that it is the sort of slick popcorn-fueled actioneer one would come to expect from the likes of producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Love him or hate him, Bruckheimer’s name is easily correlated to the type of mindless explosive derision found in his more recent hits, namely his work with Michael Bay. Yet he earned a diminutive amount of reprieve for the largely entertaining pirate film, Pirates of the Caribbean.

All qualms with the bulk of Bruckheimer’s work aside, people seem to flock to his vehicles in droves, which would indicate that he must be connecting with an audience out there on some level or another. If you find yourself falling into this category, you may be in for a little surprise on Friday.

National Treasure zeroes in on Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), the descendant of a family of treasure hunters and historians dating back to this country’s historical birth. The Gates have long been dismissed as kooks and crackpot conspiracy theorists, based on their beliefs that some of the Nation’s founding fathers were members of the Free Masons dedicated to protecting a treasure of mythical proportions.

Gates’ journey entails the deciphering of centuries old clues left to lead to the treasure, and he is driven not only to make his namesake credible, but also to prove that the legend he believes in is not mere conspiracy. His adventure is so unbelievable that the chosen form of exposition falls under the “just accept it, ok?” category. Suspending disbelief is a pre-requisite here.

After screening the trailer for the film, the connection in theme to Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The DaVinci Code seemed undeniable. In fact, the entire premise felt like a grab at the chance to usurp the style used in Brown’s novel before a screen adaptation of the book could be put in motion.

In some ways it is, and in others it isn’t. It does intend to play off motifs of discovery the way Brown’s novel does, but it lacks the research and the meticulous attention paid to questionable symbols present in historical imagery and artifacts. Everything discovered is entirely fictional, and that which isn’t fiction is stretched interpretation of fact.

This is, of course, where the wool has been pulled over audiences’ unsuspecting eyes, because the film wasn’t designed to be a smart, thrill inducing, adventure meant to shock adults with its implications, it was intended to make the kids go “ooh” and “ahh!” from the get-go.

For that very reason, the film opens with the familiar Walt Disney corporate logo flying unexpectedly solo. That’s right, there is no Touchstone pictures connection here, because National Treasure is intended to grab at a much younger market than anyone could have guessed.

Characters come to outlandish conclusions based on shaky premises, and then explain them with such fervor that many won’t even question the logic here, and it seems that Bruckheimer has managed to find a way to explode something in the most unlikely conditions: The Arctic Circle. Yup, we’re talking full flame and billowing smoke detonation here, the kind where the heroes somehow survived despite the amount of destruction erupting around them.

Don’t question it, just be thankful Nicolas Cage survived.

The big problem is that the marketing gaffe may prove more costly that first expected. Sure, you may pull in audiences opening weekend, but they will most likely be disappointed with the lightweight manner in which the action is served up in National Treasure.

Therein lies the quandary, because if Disney decided to go the route of marketing towards the kids, then they would risk the behemoth that will be The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Make no mistake, Disney might be better off duping their audiences and cutting their losses.

As kids fare goes, there is nothing really shocking here and they will likely enjoy the film as it entertains if you let go enough to let it.

The typical Disney rules apply, making National Treasure feel like a bigger budget “Wonderful World of Disney” television excursion (or at best, In Search of the Castaways -- and Diane Kruger is no Hayley Mills). The good guys win without suffering much loss, the bad guys lose. We see frozen skeletons, and one character dies although we don’t see what happens to them and they weren’t really developed well enough to care anyway.


Mario Anima

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