The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones
Review By: Gringo

Seriously?

Look, George, I know I'm about 15 years too late to tell you this, but just because the prologue about young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was fun, that doesn't mean you had to develop a whole television series on the concept. Especially one that's just so...well...not Indiana Jones.

              "I like using italics too much"
                         -- Gringo, Prat's Favorite Quotations 2007 Edition

Context time. As 90% of moviegoers will know, Indiana Jones has a long, adventuresome history. The other 10% of moviegoers are those really annoying people who come to a darkened movie theater only to incessantly talk and use their cell phones for two hours. You know, blacks. Over the course of three fine movies, Dr. Henry Jones Junior has battled Nazis for the Ark of the Covenant, fought an evil mystic cult over some sacred stones and gone back for round two against Hitler's Jew haters in a quest for the Holy Grail.

Side note: if the Internet is to be believed, Indy is about to go on his fourth canon adventure venturing into the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, which may or may not have to do with aliens and ancient Mayan temples that turn into spaceships and fly away. Oh, please Steven, I hope you've managed to keep Lucas' crazy on a tight enough leash to make the movie fun and not cringe worthy.

Yes, I'm a dork who buys movie t-shirts. No, I don't iron them.

Back from the side note, what the three Indiana Jones movies have in common (and potentially the fourth, unless it devolves into Indiana Jones and the Alien Goblins from the Moonbat Temples of Krelldor) is a sense of grand adventure, an epic quest pitting one rough around the edges adventurer against a seemingly unbeatable foe on the trail of an object of unimaginable power. World changing stuff.

What does The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones series bring to the canonical table? I'll tell you. Young Indy hanging with artists including Picasso in gay Paris, going on a series of wacky solider buddy adventures with a very fat French man, and meeting just about every single historical figure that existed in the early 20th century. Here is a man who just happened to meet, see or influence more than 50 major figures, ranging from Al Capone to Theodore Roosevelt. Because that happens.

This is not a good addition to the Indiana Jones story. They're not even really adventures. It's just a fairly dry, sometimes shockingly poorly acted television show that didn't need to happen.

The reason for writing this article is not to bitch about something 15 years too late -- hell, that's justification enough for plenty of the other reviews on this site -- but because Lucas recently released the first of three volumes of the show on DVD. Thanks to Netflix, I didn't have to slap down the $1,642 or whatever it is that ole' moneybags is charging for the box sets and instead rented the discs.

Wise move, because other than using them as Frisbees or dinner plates at an eye-gougingly awful dinner party, I wouldn't have any use for the DVDs after watching the episodes they contain. I'm prepared to stand corrected if volumes two and three turn out to be awesome fun times, but judging on the first collection of episodes alone, this is one archaeological find that should have stayed buried for several more centuries.

Look at a few (selectively chosen) titles from the series: Oganga, the Giver and Taker of Life, Perils of Cupid and Travels with Father. If you think Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is an embarrassing title, how about The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and Love's Sweet Song, a genuine episode?

The very first episode, My First Adventure is sadly an indicator of how the rest of the series goes. What Lucas has done is take old episodes and mash them together, so while every episode in this collection is about an hour or so long, about halfway through there is an abrupt change in pace and plot to something completely different. Fine editing!

The first time we meet Indiana Jones, he's traveling round the world with his father, Sean Connery...uh, I mean, Henry Jones Senior. There's also Indy's mother -- who apparently can't say more than one word per sentence given her limited role in the series -- and an uptight female English tutor with a secret heart of gold, just to top off the originality. The group finds itself in Egypt, visiting Howard Carter and T. E. Lawrence and...oh, it's just so pointless to write about because the episode is just so not enjoyable.

There are lame attempts to make the excavation of Egyptian pyramids exciting, but sadly they don't work. Then about the halfway mark, suddenly Indy and his family set off to another country, where Indy and a young slave boy get kidnapped by evil men who apparently want to rape anything they can get their hands on. It's so awful.

I think the main problem with this series is that Lucas was clearly trying to come up with some kind of edutainment (a word that should send shudders down anyone's spine) and unfortunately decided to latch it on to the Indiana Jones name. Rather than have high adventure, it turns out that young Indy's life was packed with dull globetrobbing and meeting just about everyone famous in the world, ever. The effort to blend historical figures into Indy's early life becomes such a stretch that the episodes are completely devoid of humor, excitement, or anything that would make them worth watching.

You can probably guess that my conclusion isn't positive. This series takes all the fun and excitement of the Indiana Jones films and throws it away, leaving behind something that is just a few steps higher on the ladder of interesting than a history lecture. It's only worth watching if you're the kind of OCD nerd who needs to see everything Indiana Jones. Whether I qualify as that kind of nerd is a conclusion I'll leave up to you.

By the way, I referred to the canonicity (not a word but should be) of the Indiana Jones adventures because when I'm talking about all the things that the movie character has done, I'm not including things like video games where a younger Indy uncovered the tomb of the First Emperor of China, discovered exactly what kismet befell Atlantis or where an older Professor Jones took on Russians and danced the polka. If one man had taken on that many quests in his lifetime -- and that's not even counting the Indiana Jones comics books and awful, awful novels -- I'm pretty sure he'd be dead by now. From the syphilis, naturally.

What? It could happen. Syphilis killed Al Capone, after all.


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