I remember walking out of the first National Treasure with the F-word on my lips. Was I just another killjoy critic? Read those clues again. I didn't say "walking out on" but "walking out of," meaning I stayed until the end. And the F-word? Franchise. Indeed, after loving that romp - with Nicolas Cage at his popcorn-movie best, joined winningly by Justin Bartha and Diane Kruger - I wanted a sequel ASAP. But it took Disney 3 years to round up director Jon Turteltaub and the entire cast again for Book of Secrets.
The result? As Turteltaub says in the extras, the idea was to "up the ante." Alas, more is less. In making the treasure-fetching more far-out, Turteltaub contradicts his own position that these movies aren't knockoffs of Indiana Jones but homages to Alfred Hitchcock actionromances. NT2 remains entertaining, but NT1, in its simplicity, was more clever. And funnier.
The picture and sound on this two-disc Collector's Edition are also a comedown. Skin tones lean a bit to orange, and Cage's pinstripe suit in front of the White House isn't rock-solid - although overhead shots of him laying on the floor of Buckingham Palace do show tactile details in the threads of the rug. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix isn't as involving as that of NT1, with convincing echoes in some caves but not enough dripping water in others.
In his commentary with Jon Voight, however, Turteltaub is a lively font of actual comments - such that this is one of those rare DVD talks that actually makes the movie seem better. Among five deleted scenes is a long one at Mount Rushmore, and among eight featurettes are fascinating ones about the car chase and the Library of Congress.
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