Faux history lessons, misplaced patriotism and a wild goose chase that never seems to culminate with anything sensible, gives 'National Treasure' the feel of an unsolvable riddle created with the aim of keeping the onscreen players locked in constant decipher mode. Initially, it seems to be onto something big that might have significance and great contemporary relevance, but many chases, explosions and gunfights later, all of it just fizzles out.
No one is at fault really, because none of the people involved with this aim very high to begin with. The material is pulp conspiracy theory hogwash, wielded with just enough fabrication to keep you listening, but not really caring. Nicolas Cage, who plays a 'treasure protector' with the unobtrusive name of Ben Franklin Gates, gives in to a family tradition of being too involved with the pursuit of unfound riches, the secret location of which remains hidden in everyday items such as US dollar notes and the American declaration of independence, and the clues of which have been passed down his ancestors for many generations. His father (Jon Voight) seems reasonably convinced, after his own stack of unrewarding escapades, that the entire chain of clues is a detrimental quest, pointless as it is unrewarding. Both seem content to lead their lives believing what they may, when they are dragged to work together following a hostile attempt to steal the declaration of independence by Ian (Sean Bean), once a companion to Ben and now an adversary in the race to quick riches.
Of course, the objectives of both Ben and Ian vastly differ. One is in for the money, while the other is in because he feels it is his moral obligation to keep the treasure away from evil hands. How convenient then that the bad guy and his cronies just happen to be British, who we are informed, were the very reason the clues were hidden by America's founding fathers to begin with. Some token comic relief is provided by Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) while the dangling girl in distress routine is filled with the presence of Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger).
To its credit, National Treasure has an adolescence innocence that cannot be disregarded in these times of tasteless, decrepit entertainment. Using citrus juice and a little heat to read secrets written with invisible ink is a trick every adventure loving kid has either tried once or will after watching it being demonstrated, and in moments such as these, 'National Treasure' really shines and works its charms. Like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' from a couple of years ago, this too fits the bill of a safe family entertainment. Its just too bad there is no Jack Sparrow to make up for the passable segments. - Faizan Rashid