Giving the “National Treasure” films a young-adult spin, “National Treasure: Edge of History” transforms the franchise into a Disney+ series, one that offers the same playful approach to the past while weighing it down with grueling relationship issues and a protagonist with his own Scooby gang. The opening episodes have their moments, but it’s less to appreciate than mildly enjoyable at best.
Nicolas Cage starred in the 2004 film and its sequel, a kind of discount “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The baton here passes to Lisette Olivera as Jess, a whip-smart dreamer whose father, a protector of treasures, disappeared when she was a baby.
“Don’t you dare grow up to be like yours papa,” her mother warns the infant, but of course she does when she’s reintroduced two decades later, stumbling upon an elaborate mystery with a little help from a retired FBI agent (played by Harvey Keitel, one of the standout ties to the earlier films).
Jess’ ability to identify clues (she and her friends are introduced to an escape-room game) comes in handy in these real-life scenarios, with Catherine Zeta-Jones chewing up even more scenery than she devours in “Wednesday” as the evil antique dealer who is hot on the tail.
While it’s easy enough to like a series that sends the hero to Graceland in search of a historical tidbit that might involve Elvis Presley, “Edge of History” verges on boring in the interactions between Jess and her nerdy friends, with the main exception being the friend her Tasha (Zuri Reed), who actually provides some brave comic relief in these difficult circumstances.
Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, who worked on the scripts for the original films, developed this iteration of the concept, and they deserve some credit for essentially grafting this CW/Freeform style variation onto the original, while including not only Keitel, but a performance by Justin Bartha, who co-starred, as useful holdovers.
As the recent “Willow” reminds us, Disney has aggressively mined its movie library for titles that could lend themselves to the streaming series treatment, and “National Treasure,” with its episodic aspect as Jess must find and crack new clues, might work on that level better than most.
But while Olivera has an appealing lead, the all-too-familiar romantic wrinkles and hormonal entanglements prove to be more of a distraction than an enhancement, leaving a series that resembles its daddy just enough to be occasionally fun, but one that makes the trip to where the X marks the spot feel that much longer.
“National Treasure: Edge of History” premieres December 14 on Disney+.