If you want to see a good-good movie, you go for the deluge of Oscar-bait that gets dropped at the end of the year. Those in the mood for “so bad it’s good” stuff need to watch The Room with a bunch of friends. But if you’re feeling something that’s in the low-effort, “good-bad” range, then look no further than the Nicolas Cage-starring National Treasure.
It’s essentially the Indiana Jones of the 2000s; It’s got a fantastic actor hamming it up as a resourceful historian type, the snarky best friend, some sort of treasure McGuffin and an epic, twist-filled chase to hunt down said treasure McGuffin.
But unlike Indiana Jones, you’d struggle mightily to defend National Treasure as a “good” film.
The plot plays jump rope with being either incomprehensible and/or improbable, the directing and production design is the cinematic equivalent of the colour beige, the action scenes seem like half-arsed rip-offs of better movies, and the characters are ultimately all pretty dumb and no scene-stealing performance from Nicolas Cage can make up for the lackluster writing.
Yet despite all those flaws, National Treasure is something you can watch on repeat, whether you’re sick of what’s on Netflix or nursing a brutal hangover, and never get bored. For of its flaws, the film unashamedly leans into the hamminess of it all. It knows it is cheesy and it has fun with it.
That last point is the key thing as to why National Treasure works: the film is just pure, unadulterated fun that doesn’t require you to think too hard, all while maintaining an endlessly optimistic vibe about almost everything, even when the heroes are in dire straits.
It’s quite nice to watch an adventuring protagonist who isn’t weighed down with some sort of dark baggage because no one wants to watch someone be a drag for two hours (unless you’re one of those few people who really like Zack Snyder’s DC films).
And of course, National Treasure gave us one of the best Nicolas Cage memes of the 2000s:
National Treasure‘s brand of dumb yet optimistic fun is why the movie remains endlessly entertaining even as it turns 15 years old. With all the dark stuff the world has gone through in 2019, National Treasure is the perfect form of escapism we all need right now.
Here’s hoping we will get National Treasure 3 sooner rather than later. We’re long overdue a new adventure featuring some dumb treasure hunt and Nicolas Cage saying meme-worthy lines about stealing something important.