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A rush, not just for fools

Special to the DailyDan Thomas
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One of my favorite quotes – despite the fact that it pretty much summarizes my newspaper career – holds that sometimes the fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread gets the job done.In the case of adventure movies about Freemasons, Knights Templar and the back alleys of world history, “The Da Vinci Code” is hallowed ground, the exclusive province where Tom Hanks and French actresses walk carefully under the benediction of author Dan Brown. If that seems to leave little room for a fool to rush in, perhaps you should realize the caliber of fools that people Hollywood. Enter the ineptitude dream team of Jerry Bruckheimer, John Turteltaub and Nicolas Cage and their utopia: “National Treasure.”

The premise behind “National Treasure” – ragtag heroes with checkered pasts illegally launch a pre-emptive strike against treasure hunters on the historical path of buried treasure – might seem farfetched. But it’s nothing next to the premise behind making the movie – ragtag filmmakers with checkered pasts launch an ill-advised, pre-emptive strike against a movie destined to strike gold at the box office. If “The Da Vinci Code” represents a high-stakes game of Trivial Pursuit, “National Treasure” is a quick round of three-card monte to salvage a C in U.S. history.The most ridiculous part? In a scene eerily reminiscent of the end of “Trading Places,” the dishonored heroes (Bruckheimer, Cage, Turteltaub and “Gigli” alum Justin Bartha) and the random German girl (Diane Kruger, playing an inexplicably Teutonic archivist) stick it to the man with “National Treasure.”

Part of the appeal of “The Da Vinci Code” is its ability to turn an art history textbook (or slideshow, I suppose) into pulp fiction. “National Treasure” adroitly follows suit, filling in the blanks between historical documents with as little action-movie convention as it takes to keep the plot moving. It’s probably all hooey, of course, but “National Treasure” seldom drags.It’s also probably necessary to stop short of insinuating that “National Treasure” is a noble effort in any way – Indiana Jones is probably turning over in somebody else’s grave at the thought. But “National Treasure” does have one fringe benefit worth mentioning during the holidays – it manages to be nimble, interesting and swift-moving without, really, anything too objectionable for kids – no exploding heads a la “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” nor even the intense gunplay of “The Incredibles.”



“National Treasure” might be rough around the edges, with a slapped-together feel, questionable casting and a pedigree that doesn’t bear mentioning. But somewhere in the rough are at least a few pieces of a diamond.Though he hasn’t deciphered any secrets, Dan Thomas knows the intricacies of artwork on a dollar bill, since that’s all he has in his pocket.


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