National Treasure Jon Turtletaub

National Treasure Jon Turtletaub
Fans of the ramshackle and aficionados of the ludicrous will want to be first in line for this astonishingly inept action-thriller. Nicolas Cage, trying to fulfil one of those irritating patriarchal traditions that exist only in bad adventure movies, is searching for a treasure left by Freemasons and the Founding Fathers; unfortunately, he's in competition with a not-terribly-scrupulous team headed by Sean Bean, meaning he's got to steal the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence before they do. Once the deed is done (with the ease of robbing a 7-Eleven), it's a race to various American historical sites to decipher the clues that will lead to untold riches.

One doesn't hope for complexity from a Jerry Bruckheimer opus, but one at least expects a slick little package that hangs together, so it's a shock to see this lumbering tan-coloured mess fail to arouse even mild excitement. Not only does the script strain credulity with a series of outrageous whoppers (and annoy you with painfully witless one-liners), but director Jon Turtletaub directs it like it's a romantic comedy with Meg Ryan.

Any camp value is defused by the direction and any hope of taking it seriously is let down by the inanity of the script, ending with a climax that would embarrass the makers of The Goonies. At least that had the decency to know that it was trash; National Treasure is too deluded to know that it's not an actual movie, making its attempts to believe in its hoary clichés seem less thrilling than pathetic. One of the year's worst. (Buena Vista)