Practically pulverized by director Steven Spielberg's overwhelming production, George Lucas' underwhelming story kicks off like a kersnap from Indiana Jones' legendary whip.
Spielberg stuffs his film with every stunt and special effect ever devised. When those run out, he invents a few new ones.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is set in 1957. Jones reconnects with Marion Ravenwood, his Raiders of the Lost Ark love interest reconstructed by Karen Allen. Along with a terrific but over-the-top performance from Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) as Mutt Williams, they battle Soviet Union spies for control of the crystal skull -- a key to psychic immortality.
Sporting a helmet of black hair and a Natasha Fatale (Rocky & Bullwinkle) accent, Cate Blanchett has a blast leading the bad guys.
Yes, the fourth film in the series is everything you expected -- and more. It's the "and more" that is irksome. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is packed with energy, but the plot is a struggle. In the final third, it literally and physically disintegrates.
Sure, there are lots of those famous Indiana Jones snappy comebacks and a really funny snake scene, but everything else seems forced.
A marginal actor at best, Harrison Ford found his niche in Raiders of the Lost Ark and became a superstar. The 1981concept and the character were so good that they spawned two inferior sequels.
Ford was Indiana Jones in the first movie. Though there are inspired sparks here and there, in Kingdom and in sequels The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, Ford goes through the motions and now acts like he thinks Jones should act rather than becoming one with his character.
I will admit that I'm a purist snob. Raiders is a perfect movie and the best action film of all time. It's hard not to compare. There also is a reason Ford, Lucas and Spielberg waited 19 years to do a fourth Indiana Jones. Anything short of the first film's perfection is cliche, and by the time The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull credits roll, cliche is all you have left.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars.
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Columbia Mall 8 and the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
A Plumm Summer
Henry Winkler -- who used to be TV's biggest star -- is A Plumm Summer's name actor. He's Henry Herb, a Montana kiddie show TV star whose marionette frog, Froggie Doo, is stolen and held for ransom. Three kids try to solve the mystery and pick up some cool cash.
A sub plot involves the other name actor, William Baldwin, playing an alcoholic father who alienates his wife and two sons.
The comic relief comes via two bumbling FBI agents. Their characters are Tim Conway and Don Knotts clones, sans the talent or script enough to actually make them funny.
Films like A Plumm Summer used to wind up as after-school specials on TV. No one watched them, so that market dried up. Projects like this now go straight to DVD where no one watches them.
Few of you are going to watch A Plumm Summer. And that's too bad. Predictable, yes. But the lesson, a sweet plot, good acting, a decent mystery and a great group hug at the end make it worth wading through.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars.
Rated PG for mature themes. Opens today at the Carmike 12.