Is it really fair to give "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" a pass on something as key as plot?
Well, it may not be the most professional of standards for reviewing movies, but I say in this case yes, because it delivers just about everything else you're looking for in an Indiana Jones movie in spades.
Besides, in every Indy movie so far, the story has always been delivered with a wink, like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are elbowing you in the ribs as they deliver the spectacle that just keeps getting crazier and crazier in front of your eyes. The only time I wasn't really too in on the joke was with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," but this time I was laughing right along with them until the last 15 minutes or so, when the flick just falls to pieces.
The easiest way to describe it might just be to tell you what you'll get this time around. The signature set piece, a thrilling jeep chase through the jungles of Peru, is as fun as anything that's come before it in Indy flicks. My office mate Ryan Gilchrest said it lost him when young Shia LaBoeuf went all "George of the Jungle" (you'll see what I mean), but I was laughing so hard at that point (apparently to the annoyance of the young man in front of me) that it didn't really bother me much at all.
And this wouldn't be Indy if there weren't some creepy crawlers to make you squirm in your seats. Though much of the flick has a comfortably familiar feel, the main critters here aren't snakes (but my favorite moment in the entire movie came when one of Indy's dreaded asps came into play.) I really can't tell you what they are this time, but trust me that it will have you cringing and cackling as they attack and devour the evil Russkies.
And the performances here are all-around solid, mostly because everyone was clearly in on the joke. Harrison Ford still has the chops to be a pretty serious bad ass, but he plays it with enough humility that you don't mind that he's really 67 years old (yes, 67 years old!) Mr. LaBoeuf, who I don't always particularly care for, is plenty dorky enough to play "Mutt" (I thought he was saying his name was "mud," but really, aren't they just equally as silly?) And if you don't smile as broadly as Indy when Karen Allen makes her return as Marion Ravenwood, well, why in the world did you come to this movie in the first place? Cate Blanchett vamps it up to the max as evil Russkie Col. Irina Spalko, and John Hurt (who I almost always manage to confuse with Sir Ian McKellen), is equally good as the befuddled Dr. Oxley.
So, what's the problem? As I said, it's not much of one, but I guarantee that when you hear the secret behind the "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" you'll be left scratching your head and saying, quite possibly out loud as I almost did, "nah, really?" Though David Koepp puts his name on the script, I blame George Lucas - who also gets a writing credit - for trying to make us swallow this whopper.
But, like I said, I think any die hard Indy fans will be smiling so broadly at that point that you won't mind being hoodwinked more than a little bit. Given the unbelievable hype I'd say this one almost manages to measure up, and I guess you can't ask for much more than that.
And as for my movie weekend, I'm finally gonna break down and see the little Fox Searchlight drama "Under the Same Moon," which has somehow managed to be playing at one of our Macon multiplexes for at least six weeks or so now and is hanging on for one more. Feel free to check back Sunday for my impression of that one, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.