Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

by Lisa Oppenheimer
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temple of doom

  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Recommended for ages 10 and up. (Parents may want to pre-screen it.)
  • Run Time: 118 minutes

Some time in the future, doctors hoping to rev up their patients' heart rates may prescribe this Indiana Jones flick.

The second installment of the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas epic, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, has gangsters, a damsel in distress, a diamond heist, Indy's near death from poison, a shooting, some dead bodies, ninjas, a car chase, a leap from an out-of-control aircraft, a plane crash and a perilous white-water ride. And, that's just during the credits.

Who needs a treadmill?

Actually a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the 1984 film finds the fabled adventurer (Harrison Ford) post-plane-crash in the Himalayas, rescuing a remote village that has fallen on hard times since the kidnapping of its children and the pilfering of its mystical Sankara Stone. With pint-sized sidekick Short Round (the adorable Ke Huy Quan) and reluctant damsel Willie (Cate Capshaw) in tow, the archaeologist seeks to find and reclaim the stone from the purportedly evil Pankot Palace.

If the particulars from here seem murky -- something about children mining rocks in a fiery underground temple, a stone idol requiring human sacrifice, and an evil witch doctor in a hat reminiscent of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo -- don't despair. The charm of Indiana Jones isn't where he's going, but how he gets there: the trademark fedora, the sardonic wit, the ingenious outwitting of bad guys, the improbable cheats at death, the climactic duel with nefarious villain out to take over the world, and the familiar music when our hero is about to save the day -- now, that's Indiana Jones.

Of course, one would be remiss to discuss the film without mentioning the "ick" factor. Where Raiders dabbled in gruesome -- the occasional melting face -- Temple revels in it, serving up "grisly" in the form of monkey-brain meals (served in the monkey head, naturally) and the slow incineration of a live human sacrifice. One of the film's enduring achievements, in fact, was to convince the Motion Picture Association of the need for a PG-13 rating (Temple is PG, the only rating at the time between G and R). Still, the film's cinematographic wizardry is almost a quarter century old, and even the sight of the bad guy yanking the still-beating heart from an unfortunate living slave is positively cartoonish next to the graphic brutalities bestowed in, say, 2006's Saw III. As one 10-year-Indy fan put it: "Gross! Can we watch it again?!"

And, even with all the "ewwwws," Temple is a ton of fun. Monkey brains and rodent-sized insects can't dim the adventure's climactic ending. One last thrilling race in a mine car, a near-death experience on the edge of a cliff, Indy kisses the girl (an even bigger "eww" for some kids), a heartwarming conclusion, and the film settles into a peaceful calm.

It just may take a while longer for your heart to do the same.

Kids Will Love:

The adventure and humor. They'll watch the gross stuff through their fingers, but the nonstop action and uplifting heroics are bound to make Jones fans out of even reluctant viewers. And, funny stuff -- like elephants that mercilessly douse the unsuspecting with trunk contents -- will be worth at least a few guffaws.

Parents Will Love:

Everything. Everything but the gross stuff, that is. Like the kids, you'll look away during the snake and heart scenes. But, the adventure is worth the entire 118 minutes. And, grown-up hearts will be warmed by the happy grand finale.


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