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Parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't live up to the best of the series, but Indy-loving kids will definitely want to see it. It bears the marks of classic Indy fare -- meaning lots of adventures, some of which (like a scene involving killer ants, or another involving an atomic bomb test) might be too spooky for younger kids. There's a supernatural and extra-terrestrial undercurrent and lots of punch-heavy good-guy-versus-bad-guy fights, which do have some blood (as well as plenty of weapons, including swords and guns). There's also a bit of light swearing ("s--t," "son of a bitch," etc.) and innuendo, and enemies routinely hurl unpleasant threats at each other. But it's all handed with roguish, acerbic Indy wit, which makes it -- for the most part -- all in good, popcorn movie fun.
What's the story?
Indiana Jones is back with a vengeance in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, the long-awaited fourth installment in George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's mega-hit franchise. It's 1957, and the Russians -- led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) -- have double-crossed their way into a military base in Nevada. Irina thinks the Soviets can win the Cold War by dominating the world with their minds -- but how? Find a mysterious, powerful crystal skull hidden in the South American jungle with the reluctant help of Professor Henry Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford), of course. Indy's friend Oxley (John Hurt) apparently found it once, but he's in enemy hands. Indy sets out on a rescue mission, aided and abetted by friends old and new, including motorcycle-loving, leather-jacketed punk Mutt (Shia LaBeouf).
Is it any good?
Decades have come and gone since our dear Dr. Jones' not-so-last crusade, and it's good to report that his return will entertain series fans. Sure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's good vs. evil race to the finish is marked by twists and turns that require not just a suspension, but a complete removal, of disbelief. But that's only to be expected -- after all, the Indiana Jones mythology wasn't built on reality. It's the ride, not the details, that audiences are paying for. And what a ride: The suspense, the wisecracks, the gloomy caves to explore -- they're all there. When Indy first enters the frame, it's like seeing a dear old friend. The filmmakers didn't reinvent the wheel (so don't expect any innovations), but they didn't ruin it, either.
And the newbies? When it comes to an iconic film series like this, passing the torch can be tricky. But diehard fans can relax: LaBeouf proves himself worthy enough to carry on the Indy tradition. He's prickly and adventurous, edgy and intelligent -- much like Indy himself. Though he's no Harrison Ford, LaBeouf could believably have been cut from the same cloth. As for the women, while Karen Allen's return to the series as feisty Marion is a delight, Blanchett's Russian accent is somewhat marred by plummy, Australian inflections when she says Indy's last name, which is often. And that's not the only jarring tone: While the first two-thirds of the film is classic Indy, the last act takes a hard swing that swerves into otherworldly territory. It's like Indiana Jones meets E.T. -- which is pretty iffy. The transgression's forgivable, but only just.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Indiana Jones stands for and how that becomes important in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . If he's a good guy, why does he break the rules? Is that OK? What separates him from the "bad" guys? Are real-life bad guys as thoroughly evil as the ones in movies?
Where does Mutt fit in? What does he have in common with Indy? How are they different?
Why is Indy so popular? Why is it so hard for other movies to duplicate the Indy formula? Do you think the franchise needed another movie? Why or why not?
- In theaters: May 22, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: October 13, 2008
- Cast: Cate Blanchett, Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Space and aliens
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: adventure violence and scary images.
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