ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  jon turteltaub

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  adventure

LENGTH  -  145 minutes

RELEASED  -  19 november 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  walt disney pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  national treasure

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $70,000,000
national treasure - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from national treasure at

buy the dvd from national treasure at

a treasure seeker is on the trail of the world's largest treasure and the key lies with the united states declaration of independence.

before the movie got its rating, it was under the touchstone pictures banner (which is part of disney). when the film got its rating (which is PG), it was then put under the walt disney pictures banner, as it is clear that it is a more family-friendly movie.


picture from national treasure

picture from national treasure

picture from national treasure

picture from national treasure


two out of four possible stars

Although it rests in the world of the unbelievable for most of its running time, it's difficult to outwardly hate National Treasure and its enthusiastic performers. Although the screenplay could have used some serious revision (the dialogue is atrocious), the adventure of it all is still something that might pull in the attention of a willing moviegoer. Fans of Nicholas Cage will probably be delighted with his performance though viewers critical of his work might notice that not all his jokes hit the mark. Albeit on the other hand, the audience will probably appreciate the effort of the filmmakers to include humor in this film since much of it is rather unbelievable.

But that's often the way of buried treasure films. Fantastic things happen and characters do things that nobody in their right mind would ever be able to do. People do unbelievable things in movies all the time, though whenever there's a gigantic treasure located at the end of the film, the plot tends to reside comfortably in the realm of the strange. What makes National Treasure palatable and even enjoyable is its honest and jovial approach to the story. Put this film in a room with the more ambitious treasure hunting fare like the Indiana Jones series and it probably won't stack up. But with a bucket of popcorn and a comfy seat, this film can be a good piece of entertainment.

One of the only things that keeps the film from becoming more engaging is its pace and content rating (which is a PG in the United States, which means a simple "parental guidance suggested" for viewing). Although the characters are constantly on a flight to their next clue, the film seems to soften once the first act rolls by. Filmmakers often have a difficult time making the middle of the film a sag-free affair and this movie doesn't always pull the audience forward as enthusiastically as it should. Also, even though a bucket full of violence isn't required to create an entertaining film, you can't help feeling, at times, that the script was "dumbed down" to facilitate easy viewing from young tykes.

It's such a good-natured film that the screenwriters (and/or editors) shouldn't have thought it necessary to make the dialogue quite so simple. The ideas and plot twists are interesting and the film could have really jumped off the screen with some peppy, advanced dialogue. And given the honest and even heartwarming story, young viewers could have found easy enjoyment in it. If anything, the less than stellar dialogue not only puts the audience at a disadvantage, but also makes it difficult for the actors. Each of the lead roles seems to have been cast rightly, but one wonders if those actors were aware of how simple their dialogue was.

And the dialogue isn't just a case of, "been there, done that." The story is inventive and so are the characters, but more than one viewer will find themselves jumping ahead of the dialogue in more than one spot. Some films can get away with putting no creative emphasis on dialogue and can come out fighting. National Treasure is not one of those films. Which is a shame considering there really hasn't been an extraordinarily good treasure hunt film produced in years. One can always look back back to the glory days of the Indiana Jones era, but it's high time the sub-genre was blessed with new blood.

Star Nicholas Cage can be proud of his performance, though the film won't win him any awards. It was probably never a movie that filmmakers intended to run the gamut of awards shows, and that requirement shouldn't hang over the heads of all films anyway. A movie can be innocent fun full of mindless popcorn glee, and if it grabs your attention and keeps it taut, perhaps it requires a different sort of award. The makers of National Treasure seem to have put a lot of effort into making this an enjoyable film, and in most respects it is. It's just not a fantastic one.

As a man whose family has spent almost two centuries on the trail of the largest treasure ever assembled, Nicholas Cage plays his role as "Ben Gates" with a lot of humor and with what one would assume was as much intelligence as he could infuse into the simple role. As Cage's comedic side kick, newcomer Justin Bartha plays the role of fellow treasure hunter, "Ridley Poole" with an equal amount of humor and seems to push his way through the weak dialogue as much as is to be expected. Filling out the trio of adventurers, Diane Kruger, lately of Helen fame, makes a strong entry into the film as well.

In the supporting role of lead bad guy, the eternally underappreciated Sean Bean, playing financier and treasure hunter, "Ian Howe," makes for an intelligent and worthy adversary for the protagonists. In a smaller role as Cage's father, Jon Voight makes for successful comedy in his few scenes littered throughout the film. And in another minor role, the eternally busy actor Harvey Keitel makes a solid stand as an FBI agent who crosses paths with Cage's group of rogue treasure hunters. Overall, the supporting and lead performances reflect positively on each of the actors' abilities, though not all viewers will realize that the messy dialogue isn't really their fault.

The performances and technical aspects of the film are all on par with most contemporary films released by the big Hollywood studios, with the soundtrack and cinematography each standing out as superior elements. Where this film falls down is in its dialogue. The plot is inventive, the genre is exciting, and the cinematography is beautiful. The performers also give the film a good kick. But whether it was the inability of the screenwriter to create fresh dialogue, the "dumbing down" of the screenplay by the producers, or the missteps of the editor, National Treasure is a mildly exciting film that could have been much, much better.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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