National Treasure (2004)

2004, Disney. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha.

Decent Films Ratings

Entertainment Value
Value (+4/-4)
? -1
?Kids & Up*

External Ratings


Content advisory: Action violence, a few mildly grisly images, and minor profanity; fictionalized, uncritical depiction of unhistorical claims of Freemasonry.

A National Catholic Register DVD/Video Picks review.

By Steven D. Greydanus

Disney takes a stab at a lost art form, the family-friendly swashbuckler, in a tale that combines Tomb Raider / Indiana Jones archaeological spelunking, Ocean’s 11 high-tech caperism, and Da Vinci Code historical revisionism — but omits the gratuitous PG-13 violence and sex that typically mar such films nowadays.

Nicolas Cage stars as heir to a family of treasure hunters seeking the riches of King Solomon’s temple, discovered by the Crusaders and hidden by the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, who planted clues on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

Most of the film’s esoterica is harmless nonsense, but the flattering endorsement of the anti-Catholic Freemasons, with their imaginary historical pedigree, is problematic; especially galling is the claim that Charles Carroll — the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence — was a Mason! Yet unlike Dan Brown, National Treasure doesn’t subvert the ideas on the front of the page, so to speak; the film is in no way anti-Catholic or even anti-American.

In its general approach if not all particulars, Treasure could represent a promising new approach in family entertainment. The annoying Freemason stuff aside, National Treasure works fairly well as slick, enjoyable hooey that not only comes up with two different approaches to stealing the Declaration of Independence, but gives the hero a credibly righteous motive for doing so — to protect it from the bad guy who wants to steal it first!

Tags: Action, Adventure, Family

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