(Publication date: Jan. 14, 2005)


Treasure Is Where You Find It


The other night, Parker and I went up to the Oaks on Solano Avenue in Berkeley to see National
Treasure
and afterward someone asked, “So, are you going to write about it?”

No, I’m not. After all, the fact that in this one Nicolas Cage plays a treasure hunter named
Benjamin Franklin Gates is about all there is to say.

Well, I guess you could point out that he’s the latest link in a family chain stretching back to
connect with a spectacular historical secret (although Ben doesn’t know what), a treasure sitting
hidden someplace (although Ben
doesn’t know where). But that’s about all there is to say.

Well, I guess you could say that one dark and stormy night (oh, please), Ben’s gravel-voiced,
twinkle-eyed grandfather, played by Christopher Plummer sporting a mustache and accent that
make him the twin of Max von Sydow, finds seven-year-old Ben rummaging in the attic for a
mysterious family artifact relating to the treasure. Old Granddad fires Ben up about figuring out the
secret and the next thing we know, Ben’s all grown up and rumbling around the Arctic with a band
of fellow treasure maniacs searching for a frozen schooner. But that’s about all there is to say.

Well, I guess this movie does reveal how smart Nicolas Cage is. In the wreckage of the schooner,
he finds a piece of paper with the number 55 written on it and, after seven seconds of deep study,
announces that the paper fragment is saying the key to the treasure is on the back of the
Declaration of Independence. Pretty much what I would have concluded, too, but that’s about all
there is to say.

Well, I guess there’s some father-son stuff in here. Ben’s dad, a defeated blob of shuffling
protoplasm played by Jon Voight, wants Ben to stop this treasure nonsense and become something
useful, like maybe a dentist. This, of course, puts him in conflict with not only his son but his own
father. See? It’s like playing three-level relationship chess with Dr. Phil. And do you think there’s a
slight chance the family tatters will be mended in the end? But that’s about all there is to say.

Well, I guess there’s a reminder that women are at least as capable as men. Diane Kruger, who last
put everyone but Orlando Bloom to sleep as Helen in
Troy, plays Dr. Abigail Chase, who, at age
approximately twenty-three, looks a little young to be in charge of the National Archives. Of
course, when producer Jerry Bruckheimer is the one filling the vacancies in your government,
even I could run things if I were young and had hair, especially blonde. But that’s about all there is
to say.

Well, I guess Parker and I learned some interesting things about tourism. For instance, in
Philadelphia you can climb alone up to the belfry at Independence Hall any time you want--you just
step over the chain with the sign that says Authorized Personnel Only. You can also run through
the streets of Philly shooting guns and no cops will show up. And in Manhattan you can blast
through walls in historic old churches and no one will so much as appear, cough quietly to get
your attention, and ask, “May I help you?” But that’s about all there is to say.

Well, I guess there is something about fun. If you go with your 13-year-old son to see this movie,
you’ll probably have some. Quite a bit, in fact. But
that’s all there is to say.

So, write about
National Treasure? I don’t think so.


Life Is a Movie