A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this action movie has a handful of explosions and some gunshots being fired at characters and into crowds. Characters are in frequent peril and some are taken hostage. The historical aspect is especially interesting for conspiracy theorists and treasure hunters, if a little fuzzy when it comes to nailing down actual facts. A minor character is killed (offscreen). When Ben says he is in trouble, his father asks if the woman he has with him is pregnant. There is a lot of reckless and irresponsible behavior, even within the traditions of this genre.
What's the story?
Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) comes from a long line of treasure hunters who have been been chasing a legendary treasure for generations. Ben is determined to solve the mystery with the help of his sidekick Riley (Justin Batha) and an unlikely ally played by Diane Kruger, who is the guardian of the Declaration of Independence. Meanwhile Ben's former colleague and financial backer, Ian (Sean Bean), has betrayed Ben and is trying to find the treasure for himself. With ingenuity, some help from family and friends, and a lot of luck, Ben and his crew might just solve the legend and find the treasure before his enemies do. Along the way, the treasure hunt will take them to historic sites in Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, from the highest of high-tech security to the ricketiest of ancient catacombs.
Is it any good?
Well, it's not Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there are enough thrills and mysteries in this rather clean Disney flick to have made it a hit. The jokes are a little lame, even though Nicholas Cage does his best to bring some spark into his parrying with Diane Kruger's sexy-intellectual portrayal of Dr. Chase. Some weaknesses in the script are plain silly: the hologram emblazoned on the back of the Declaration of Independence, for example, is just laughable.
But history buffs will be happy to fact-check which of the Founding Fathers were indeed Freemasons, and kids can marvel at the buried ship, the code-breaking, and the subterranean caverns and structures, which may or may not contain treasure. Parents of young kids should watch out for the big explosions and the perilous kidnapping scenes which could disrupt the sensitive viewer. No, it's not a NATIONAL TREASURE, but it has good production value and star power -- which counts for something.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their own family legends and heirlooms. What are some of the stories associated with them? What do you do to make sure they're safe?
Talk about how movies and TV can alter the facts of history. What sources do you use to learn the true facts of history?
What kinds of messages about taking risks and breaking the law does this movie contain? What's the difference between thrilling entertainment and encouraging bad behavior?
- In theaters: November 19, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2005
- Cast: Harvey Keitel, Justin Bartha, Nicolas Cage
- Director: Jon Turteltaub
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action violence and some scary images
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.