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Monday, January 25, 2010

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

Twenty years after their last go-round, producer George Lucas, helmer Steven Spielberg & star Harrison Ford returned with this new Indy adventure. Now in their 60s, they’re so determined to prove they still can deliver the goods that they overcompensate; the film is more exhausting than entertaining. (Heck, even the title is exhausting.) The nonsensical doings involve a skull with metaphysical powers; a squadron of Communist rivals (led by an overqualified Cate Blanchett), dogged F.B.I. agents in white shirts & skinny ties; and a family Indy never knew he had. Shia LaBeouf is a rather faceless sidekick (especially if you recall the effortless star wattage the late River Phoenix brought to Young Indy in the last outing), but it’s a treat to reencounter Karen Allen (Botox-free & fabulous) as Indy’s original gal pal. Too bad the script has them playing The Bickersons. Spielberg couldn't have been happy with the ridiculously overextended action set piece or with the puerile extraterrestrial finale. And how we miss Douglas Slocombe, the original INDY lenser. Janusz Kaminski brings back the hideous orange-glow Dean Cundey used in Spielberg projects like HOOK/’91 and JURASSIC PARK/’93. Yuck. Yet, even though the film is piffle, the end result is largely good fun. The production is almost impossibly luxe (all those ‘50s vehicles) and there are throwaway gags all the way thru that keep things from bogging down. Plus, film mavens will have fun spotting riffs on iconic scenes from the likes of C. B. De Mille (UNCONQUERED/’47); Howard Hawks (THE LAND OF THE PHARAOHS/’55); and even Spielberg’s own CLOSE ENCOUNTERS/’77.

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