David James, Lucasfilm Ltd.
Shia LaBeouf, left, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen star in "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — *** — Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, slurs, vulgarity, brief drugs); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15; Century Sandy and South Salt Lake; Cinemark Jordan Landing; Megaplex District, Gateway and Jordan Commons; Red Carpet 5-Star and Gateway 8; Redwood Drive-in; Westates Holladay Center

The big question going into "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was whether 60-something star Harrison Ford would be spry enough to reprise his physically demanding role as an adventurer.

After all, it has been nearly 20 years since Ford last put on the familiar fedora and cracked his bullwhip in "The Last Crusade."

But the somewhat reassuring answer to that question is, yes, he is spry enough. Even if, at times, he is just barely spry enough.

On the whole, "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a mostly fun, nostalgic action-adventurer. While it may not hit the dizzying heights of 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which is by far the best of this film series, it definitely betters the worst of them, 1984's "The Temple of Doom."

And it offers Ford one of his better recent film vehicles. He reprises his role as intrepid archaeology professor Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr.

Set during the height of the Cold War, "Crystal Skull" propels Indy into yet another mystery — that is, once he escapes from Russian captivity and survives a nuclear blast.

It turns out some mummified remains hidden in the U.S. Army's top-secret Area 51 facility may somehow be tied to the El Dorado legends, as well as possible extraterrestrial visitations.

Indy gets some help from Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a motorcycle-riding, switchblade-toting youth who reminds Indy a little bit of himself when he was younger. Hmmm. ...

Together, they hope to solve the mystery and help free another archaeologist (John Hurt), as well as Mutt's mother — who just happens to be Indy's former flame, Marion (Karen Allen). Double-hmmm. ...

Surprisingly, LaBeouf turns out to be one of the film's real assets. He's certainly not as irritating as at least one of the earlier Indy sidekicks (Short Round, anyone?) and is convincing in the action sequences, especially an exciting sword duel with Cate Blanchett's villainous Russian.

And it's nice that the film doesn't take itself too seriously. There are winking nods to the earlier movies, as well as explanations for the absences of both Sean Connery and the late Denholm Elliott.

Is the whole thing preposterous? Yes. Is it a bit familiar and predictable? Possibly. Is it corny? OK, yes, a little bit.

But again, it's fun and doesn't require too much thought. And unlike at least one bloated summer film ("Speed Racer"), this movie knows when to shut up.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of violent action (gunplay and fisticuffs, vehicular and explosive mayhem, scenes of peril and violence against women), scattered profanity, derogatory language and other slurs, a couple of brief, vulgar references, and brief drug content (poisonous darts). Running time: 122 minutes.

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