Overall Impression – It’s THE 39 CLUES for adults that is so winningly cast and so slickly produced that you barely realize that nothing’s at stake.


Who’s your main character? – Ben Gates.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: Find the City of Gold. Personal: Prove that his great-great-grand father was not involved in killing Lincoln (really!)  Private: Get back together with his wife. Interestingly, the private goal is obvious, however because Ben is not coming out and saying it directly to anyone, it qualifies.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Mitch Wilkinson, who also wants to find the City of Gold to make his mark on history.

What happens if he fails? – The goals themselves are really weak. The world’s not going to end if he doesn’t find the City of Gold, and he’s not going to be sent to prison for a million years if he doesn’t prove that his great-great-grandpappy didn’t help kill Lincoln.  It’s the steps he has to go through on the road to resolving these very low-stakes goals that bring any jeopardy to the story.


Orphan – Ben is separated from his wife and living out of boxes at his father’s house.  He is a famous historian and treasure hunter who believes that his family name is besmirched by the revelation that his great-great-grandfather’s name appears on a missing page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary.

Wanderer – Ben puts together his team including his father (played by an actor who once played FDR in a movie) as he starts to pursue clues.  He eventually learns that the information he needs is in the Book of Secrets, which is only viewable by the President of the United States.

Warrior – Ben kidnaps the President (played by an actor who once played JFK in a movie) in order to get access to the book.  He’s now wanted for kidnapping the President and is on the run as he fights to get to the location of the City of Gold.

Martyr – Inside  the City of Gold, Ben faces off against Mitch and is willing to give up  his life for his team, including his mother (played by an actress who once played the Queen in a movie).  Ultimately, the bigger martyr beat goes to the bad guy who, I guess, wasn’t as bad as he was supposed to be.  Unless he was.  


The power of the franchise meets the power of the thrill ride! As we’ve seen with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, a really good first movie can devolve into not much more than sound and fury in the sequels, but be so much fun that nobody cares about the stakes.  Is there is a group of treasure hunters more fun to hang with than Nic Cage and company?  No!  The characters are so endearing and the action and locales so entertaining that they compensate for how uninvolving the stakes are.  Do you care what people think of your relative of 150 years ago?  Does that really change anything in your life? 

NATIONAL TREASURE 2 makes a valiant effort at showing just how much this means to Ben and his father, but it’s obvious that it’s just smoke and mirrors.  Watching this movie is not unlike going to an amusement park with a group of your best buddies and having so much fun that you don’t care nothing important has been said the entire day.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter

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