Thursday, November 8, 2007

DVD REVIEW: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Vol. 1

If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones.

That was the line at the top of a promo poster for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" back in 1984. Based on the popularity of the Indiana Jones titles, many moviegoers must have agreed. The success of the movies, combined with George Lucas' love of history, led to the appearance of the hero on the small screen.

"The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" originally aired on ABC (as "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles") and received critical acclaim. However, after its initial acceptance by viewers, ratings began to drop. The series was not providing the action and excitement of its big screen predecessor, something fans and the network were expecting. After two seasons, ABC pulled the plug. But Lucas, believing the shows had something to offer, pressed on and found a new outlet, the USA Network.

The new home didn't air episodes in series form, but offered them to viewers as TV movies. They were basically the same as the series, offering more of a history lesson than the action/adventure of the trilogy. Eventually the attempted edutainment hybrid had run his course on television. After a short lifespan, 1992-1996, young Indy drifted away, apparently lost like the artifacts he often pursued.

However, thanks to a charge led by many loyal Indy fans, the series has been rescued from the past and is now being offered on DVD. It did make a brief showing on VHS, but that's like something being available on CD and being told it was once on 8-track too.

The series has been put into 22 episodes that will span three volumes, the first being available now. It not only contains seven of the episodes, but also 38 historical documentaries. These extras are based on the figures and events the young Indy encountered during his adventures. If Henry Jones, Jr. encountered someone of historical significance, there will be a documentary to accompany the episode. T.E. Lawrence, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, Teddy Roosevelt and Giacomo Puccini are just a handful of the those featured in the extras. Documentaries about women's suffrage in America, the American invasion of Mexico, Eastern spirituality and ecology can also be found in this edition.

Of course none of that would be important if the stories weren't worthwhile. Thanks to quality performances from Sean Patrick Flannery (teen Indy) and Corey Carrier (10-year-old Indy), the adventures flow fairly well and keep the attention of the audience. For fans of Dr. Jones, it's also interesting to see what made this man the hero they came to know. It's also fun to watch Lloyd Owens' portrayal of Henry Jones, Sr., knowing that Sean Connery eventually became the face of the elder Jones.

Viewers will also be able to watch guest appearances by some of acting's bigger names. Lukas Haas, Max Von Sydow, Elizabeth Hurley and Vanessa Redgrave can all be found in the episodes of Volume 1. In addition, these works also offer the skills of some of Hollywood's most talented writers and directors (DIRECTORS: Mike Newell - "Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire," Joe Johnston - "Jurassic Park III;" WRITERS: Frank Darabont - "The Shawshank Redemption," Jonathan Hensleigh - "Die Hard with a Vengeance")

It's true that this series isn't really a smaller version of what Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford brought to the movie theaters. But that really shouldn't be considered a bad thing. "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" still offers action, adventure, comedy and romance, but its focus is history. But it doesn't get so wrapped up in itself that the concept of entertainment is lost. It's a well done series that provides families with the opportunity to sit down together and enjoy some old-fashioned television fun. And, in the process, everyone might learn something too.

Maybe a new slogan will even start popping up.

If history has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. (OK, maybe that's a bit much.)

GRADE: 8.0/10
This is a quality release that everyone can enjoy. It was created more as a means to educate and bring history to a younger crowd, so it couldn't get carried away with whip-cracking, fancy horseback riding, melting faces, etc. However, it probably would have benefited from a little more action, especially considering that's what the title implies to most people. But, thanks to clever stories, quality acting and the expected settings for an Indiana Jones title, it was still entertaining enough to hold the attention of an audience, while providing a brief history lesson. Education and entertainment...that's a good combination.

"The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume One" - available now
  • "My First Adventure"
  • "Passion for Life" (guest star: Lukas Haas)
  • "The Perils of Cupid" (guest star: Max Von Sydow, director: Mike Newell)
  • "Travels with Father" (writer: Frank Darabont)
  • "Journey of Radiance" (writer: Jonathan Hensleigh)
  • "Spring Break Adventure" (director: Joe Johnston)
  • "Love's Sweet Song" (guest stars: Elizabeth Hurley and Vanessa Redgrave)

Volume 2 - scheduled release: December 18, 2007
Volume 3 - scheduled release: Spring 2008

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