ppropriately enough, we went from Laguna’s community Thanksgiving potluck to the Aliso Viejo movie complex to see "National Treasure," which opened last week and has had a strong showing at the box office although critical reception has been less than enthusiastic.
We were on our own, just the two of us, since our extended families are in Northern California, and Jackson was off with his dad and a pack of friends for an annual houseboating trip on Lake Powell. They tell me they deep-fry the turkey. Anyway, I know he’s having a great time.
If you’ve read the reviews, which are pretty snarky for the most part, you might think Nicholas Cage’s new quasi action-adventure movie would be a pass. But you’d be wrong.
Because I was there, at the end of the movie, when a surprisingly healthy round of applause erupted. Gerard looked at me like, “What?” and I said, well, you know there’s something to be said for a movie with no sex, barely any violence, and a body count of one (and that was accidental).
Oh, and there was a swear word. It was “damn,” and I think Nicholas Cage’s character Benjamin Franklin Gates said “Shut up” a time or two, but in an affectionate way.
Throw in a little bit of historical relevance, and Harvey Keitel as the FBI honcho, and what’s not to like?
Plenty, according to the reviews. But, lukewarm-to-hostile reviews notwithstanding, the theater where we saw National Treasure, on Thanksgiving day, was three-quarters full.
I’m not saying it’s a great movie by any means, but it was perfectly appropriate for an afternoon matinee. As Stefan Lovgren writes at National Geographic News:
Imagine this: Centuries ago an order of European knights amassed a huge treasure of priceless artifacts from around the world.
The loot was later brought to the United States by the Freemasons, a secret society. Determined to keep it out of the hands of the British during the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin and other Masons hid the treasure in a secret location but left clues to its whereabouts in famous American landmarks. Now, the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of a carriage boy who learned the secret vows to find the treasure. The clues lead him to an invisible map hidden on the back of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
But the plot of National Treasure, the adventure yarn starring Nicolas Cage that opens in U.S.movie theaters today, is also irresistible fun.
It's become a bona fide recipe for success: Invent an old-fashioned treasure hunt, fill it with conspiracies and secret codes, and set it against a backdrop of real history.
And thought he mostly trashes it, Wesley Morris gives “National Treasure” this begrudging praise in The Boston Globe:
“What follows is a spree of chase sequences, chemical experiments and trivia-answers that refuses to let you be bored.”
The bottom line is, there are plenty worse ways to spend an afternoon. Still, it earned only one thumb up from the Van der Leuns.
11/29 Update: According to CBS MarketWatch, "National Treasure" has topped box office sales for the second straight week, according to preliminary estimates, grossing more than $33 million over the holiday weekend.