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:: National Treasure

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is part of a long line of amateur historians and dreamers who have been seeking the lost treasure of the Templar Knights. When he discovers there’s a hidden map on the back of the US Declaration of Independence, he has to beat an unscrupulous former financer of his expeditions (Sean Bean) to the treasure. As befitting a strictly by-the-numbers Jerry (Pirates of the Caribbean) Bruckheimer production, Gates is assisted by a nubile blonde archivist (Diane Kruger from Troy) and an underwritten annoying sidekick (sorry Justin Bartha, but give me Shrek’s Donkey any day).

A fantastical but formulaic script by Jim Kouf and Cormac Wibberley interweaves Templar, Cathar, Freemason and Founding Fathers conspiracy theories into a by-the-numbers overly patriotic adventure that best functions as a tour of Washington and New York’s most important monuments. It’s like Indiana Jones meets the mediocrity of Independence Day – there are some entertaining moments, but there’s also a lot of padding, sentimentality and overblown music (by Trevor Rabin).

Although National Treasure is not as valuable as it would like to be, it’s not all bad. The action begins immediately, when Gates discovers an important clue five minutes into the film. In your standard treasure-hunt flick, it’s not until towards the end that the hero gets this far, which gives Gates a lot longer to actually locate all that booty. The highlight of the film also comes early, when director John Turteltaub cuts between the two simultaneous heists – revitalising the frequently overused caper sequence. But there’s just too much cat and mouse in the last half of the film. Despite an amusing exchange between Diane Kruger and a delicatessen assistant during a shopping centre chase scene, the 131-minute run time begins to hurt. And please, no more predictable false denouements!

Despite this, all you need to do to make this Bruckheimer behemoth enjoyable is reduce the length by 20-30 minutes, cut the final cloying scene and…voila! An entertaining popcorn flick.