Map to nowhere

IS THAT A SCOOBY-SNACK? That meddling Nicholas Cage does his best to thwart the bad guys in <i>National Treasure</i>.

IS THAT A SCOOBY-SNACK? That meddling Nicholas Cage does his best to thwart the bad guys in National Treasure.

Rated 2.0

With any Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action flick, you’re expected to check your head at the door. But you shouldn’t have to endure having the ushers roll it up and down the aisles.

With National Treasure, the script is dodgy enough, a series of quasi-historical tour guides padded out into a scenario, with Nicholas Cage and Justin Bartha exchanging tired-assed comedy routines in a sad attempt to make the proceedings seem fresh. It’s not a good sign when filmmakers resort to a voice-over to set up the premise; it’s an even worse sign when the setup makes absolutely no sense.

Here it’s something about the builders of the Egyptian pyramids forming a secret society called the Freemasons and, in conjunction with the Knights Templar, looting a vast treasure from different civilizations throughout history in order to stash it somewhere in the New World as insurance for the rising new democracy. In case something goes amiss, the guardians of the secret can track it down and do something. It’s never quite clear what that is exactly.

Cage’s Benjamin Franklin Gates is the latest guardian of the secret, following a trail of clues that lead up to the necessity of stealing the Declaration of Independence. See, it has another clue on the back of it (several of the framers being Freemasons themselves), penned in invisible ink. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that the Gates family is a long line of crackpots, so they won’t let him at it. But another, less-noble character is onto the secret, so Gates has to steal the document to keep it safe.

Then it’s our hero, a comely historian (Diane Kruger) that he has by necessity kidnapped and cowardly sidekick Bartha hop-scotching from one historical site to another in pursuit of never-ending trail of clues, with villain in pursuit.

All we need is a stocky brainiac and a Great Dane, and it’d be Mystery, Inc., but while the action sequences are handled well enough, the plot holes and recurring absurdities would insult the intelligence of even the average Scooby-Doo fan.

Like a Thomas Kinkade painting, it looks pretty, but there’s no there there.