REEL CRITIC:

The movie of the summer has finally arrived, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” This big-budget thrill ride is a must-see for fans of the series. The juiced-up PG-13 production is a little over the top, but it’s still a fun ride for kids of all ages.

Harrison Ford once again reprises his role as the famous archaeologist Indiana Jones. This time, Dr. Jones must keep some mysterious crystal skulls out of the hands of the nasty Russian army by traveling all over the world and then some.

As usual, Indy has a sidekick. This time, his name is Mutt Williams and played to perfection by Shia LaBeouf. Does Mutt have a secret past, and what is his connection to the skulls and Indiana? Why are the skulls so mysterious, and where did they come from? Can this film live up to the hype? There are many questions to be answered, but that’s what makes an adventure movie so adventurous.

In 1981, I saw the first Indiana Jones movie and I was hooked. There was no way I was going to miss this film. That being said, most of the people in my theater weren’t even born when the original epic was released. That’s a testament to the great directing of Steven Spielberg and the power of cable TV and DVD rentals.

I was astonished at how many film nerds showed up for my sold-out show in costume and ready for action. If at all possible, see this movie with a large audience at a great theater. It will definitely add flavor to the moment.

Since the “Crystal Skull” is the fourth film in the franchise, there was a huge potential for a letdown, but I feel the movie delivers on all areas. Yes, the story is a little corny, and some of the scenes are literally nothing but monkey business, but this is true escapism for people looking to get away from the bad news that fills our newspaper. I took my old college roommate along so we could relive some nostalgic moments from our youth. We weren’t disappointed and neither will you if you enter the theater in the right frame of mind.

Even though this is just a fantasy, most of the acting is fantastic.

As always, Ford really takes command of his character, and his old flame Marion (Karen Allen), even shows up for some heated tension between the two previous lovers. My audience cheered with delight when Allen’s smile lit up the big screen during her entrance halfway through the 124-minute film. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the Russian military leader is unique, to say the least. She could rub some people the wrong way with her campy interpretation. You’ll have to see the film to form your own opinion.

This is not the greatest movie ever made, and there are some holes in the script. Spielberg also comes very close to overusing annoying digital effects, but I did love the way he tied in two of his previous masterpieces, “Close Encounters” and “ET.” I’m curious to see if other people feel the same way or think I’m just stupid.

The musical score is another highlight, and I never get tired of listening to John Williams’ take on the amazing visuals that Spielberg always delivers.

If you consider yourself a true movie fan, there are certain films you must see in order to join the discussion. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is one of these films. It’s a throwback to the old days of moviemaking when everything was about having a good time. As you know, I love to have a good time, and I had a blast seeing my main man Indy back in action.


 MATT BELLNER of Burbank is an actor currently on vacation in Texas.

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