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National Treasure: Book of Secrets (DVD Review)

18 May, 2008 By: John Latchem

National Treasure 2

Street 5/20/08
Box Office $219.5 million
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 two-DVD set, $34.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for some violence and action.
Stars Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood, Helen Mirren.

With its globe-trotting adventure and flair for re-interpreting ancient secrets, perhaps it’s no coincidence the home video release for Book of Secrets is timed for the same week as the theatrical release of the new “Indiana Jones” movie.

In this follow-up to 2004’s National Treasure, Nicolas Cage returns as treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates, who along with his father (Voight) hope to clear the name of an ancestor implicated in a lost page of John Wilkes Booth’s diary as the architect of the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln. The key clue rests within the pages of a clandestine journal, the so-called Book of Secrets, kept by American Presidents and passed to their successors. A few deleted scenes fill in some plot holes.

Where the first movie was clever in its exploitation of various symbols of American history, this second installment is more transparent as an excuse for the elaborate treasure hunt. The end result is a flawed but ultimately entertaining film that hopefully will encourage viewers to learn more about the true stories that influenced the screenwriters.

The best extras on the two-disc set deal with the film’s attempts to tie the storylines to American history. Most interesting is a profile of the Library of Congress that takes viewers a virtual tour behind the scenes of the world’s largest library.

There’s also a featurette that details the meticulous care taken in putting together the prop for the Book of Secrets. A handwriting expert, using authentic ink from the period, actually created pages for each President in their handwriting.

The concept of a Book of Secrets is an intriguing one, although I’d be curious to see William Henry Harrison’s entry (he caught pneumonia at his inauguration in 1841 and died just one month into his term). The movie doesn’t delve into the logistics of such a book, such as the impracticality of only Presidents being allowed to read it, and how VPs would learn of it if the President died. Surely the sitting President must also leave a note to say where it’s hidden.

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