National Treasure

dir. Turteltaub

Opens Fri Nov 19

Various Theaters

Whenever we give a less-than-favorable review to a Hollywood blockbuster, there is always--without fail--at least one person who writes in to complain. These people feel as if our advanced cinematic knowledge has created a social disconnect between what we think people need (intellectually edifying films) and what people think they want (two hours of Arnold Schwarzenegger blowing the shit out of some commie pinko fags). Charges of "elitist hipsterism" and "fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-muds" are leveled, and feelings are invariably hurt. However, I mostly agree with these people: Entertainment should be, first and foremost, entertaining. And with that in mind, I offer the following opinion of the latest Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster, National Treasure: It won't make you stick a pencil in your eye.

Nicolas Cage plays hunky bookworm Benjamin Franklin Gates, who grew up believing his grandfather's tales of a wondrous treasure that was extremely well hidden by the founding fathers of our country. Obsessed with finding this booty trove, Ben stupidly enlists the help of a creepy rich criminal (Sean Bean) who, unsurprisingly, wants to keep all the treasure for himself. When it's discovered the treasure map is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence, Ben and his computer geek sidekick (Justin Bartha) decide to steal the document before the creepy criminals can get their hands on it.

Though even the most blockbuster-lovin' cinephile would agree this is a deeply stupid plot, the screenwriters throw in enough pseudo-history to make it "buyable," if not believable. Plus, director Jon Turteltaub gives the affair a rollicking "Goonies for adults" vibe that forces you to put aside any annoying intellectual cynicism. Meanwhile, FBI agent Harvey Keitel joyfully recreates his Mr. Wolfe role from Pulp Fiction, Bartha has fun with his wisecracking geek persona, and Cage seems fully aware of the ridiculousness of his performance--yet maintains a straight face throughout, as only the best actors can.

While I'd only give it a B-minus at best, National Treasure is still a pleasant enough escapist venture, that, as mentioned earlier, won't make you stick a pencil in your eye. You can now send your letters to "Stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy," care of this paper.