National Treasure (2004)

Rating: D

Dir: Jon Turteltaub
Star: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean

I don’t mind dumb movies at all. I am one of the few who can say with a straight face they enjoyed both The Chronicles of Riddick and Barb Wire. Yes: big, idiotic, mindless action flicks. Bring ’em on. But may the cinema gods save us from films like this, which think they are clever, yet are actually dumb as stumps. The script here requires a suspension of IQ in almost any scene. One example: a crucial clue, in the hunt for the world’s biggest treasure trove (what passes for a plot here), is the shadow of a tower, at a specific time, falling on a certain brick. Except, in reality, the shadow’s location would vary depending on the day too.

This kind of sloppy writing permeates a script that staggers from convenient coincidence (Bean’s villain – British, natch – is always two minutes behind our hero in finding answers) to downright wrong: 56 people signed the Declaration of Independence, not 55 as it says. That would be ignorable in a stoopid film. However, this is supposed to be smart, Cage’s hero solving puzzles with a snap of his brain. Of course, being Cage, he’s also an ex-Navy diver. Sigh. Bartha, as the equally inevitable sidekick, injects the right note of sarcasm, but otherwise, this is empty, formula cinema of the sloppiest kind.

Christopher Plummer, Harvey Keitel + Jon Voight make meaningless cameos – the last-named cornering the market in treasure-hunter’s parents, having also played Lara Croft’s Dad. Any pretense of intelligence goes up in smoke like all the flaming torches they find which – of course! – burst into life after being untouched for 200 years. Inevitably, in the country that elected Dubya (not once, but twice), this made $173m: we get the mass-market cinema we deserve, sadly to say. My expectations for The Da Vinci Code slink, embarrassed, for the exit.