"National Treasure" has a lot of the same problems that bedevil almost every Jerry Bruckheimer production — primarily that the plot doesn't make a lick of sense.

Seriously, if you give this material more than a moment's consideration, you may be in trouble.

And yet, if you can turn off your brain for two hours, it's sort of fun.

Sure, it's dopey, but at least it's not filled with explosions — as are so many of Bruckheimer's blockbusters — and it's one action-adventure movie that doesn't go overboard with the violence. It's even rated PG.

Of course, it's a little too long, and in the end, things are resolved too quickly and much too easily (more Bruckheimer bugaboos). But it's passable, lightweight entertainment . . . even when it leaves itself open to a sequel.

"National Treasure" follows the members of the Gates family, treasure seekers who have been scoffed at by historians for their wild claims. The youngest is Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), who has spent nearly his entire life searching for an elusive Masonic treasure that was hinted at by our nation's forefathers.

Ben has been recently double-crossed by a former partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean). Now he has to steal the Declaration of Independence to keep the bad guys from getting their hands on an invisible treasure map on its back.

When Ben does manage to get away with the document, he finds himself saddled with a new partner, Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), a historical archivist who wants to prevent damage to the valuable parchment. Ben also has to elude FBI agents, who don't understand that he stole the Declaration with the best of intentions.

The plot is actually a great deal more convoluted than that, and by the time Cage's character starts using tri-fold spectacles invented by his namesake, Ben Franklin, to uncover hidden clues, you may find yourself rolling your eyes and laughing at all the contrivances.

However, director Jon Turteltaub does keep the film moving at a brisk enough pace so that you might not even linger on such details — at least not until the film is over.

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"National Treasure" doesn't really afford its big-name supporting cast (Jon Voight, Christopher Plummer, Harvey Keitel) much of an opportunity to do anything, but for a change, Cage actually seems to be having fun. And so does Justin Bartha, who's entertaining as his wisecracking sidekick.

Sharp-eyed audiences may also recognize parts of central Utah subbing for the Arctic at the start of the movie.

"National Treasure" is rated PG for scenes of violence (some gunplay, some vehicular violence and some peril), and scattered use of profanity (mostly religiously based). Running time: 120 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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