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This movie does a splendid job as an adaptation of the TV show. The idea of the challenge, the traps and puzzles of the rooms, the temple guards, the time-limit, Olmec as a guardian etc. all of it is translated into a "this is the real deal" adventure from the game format. Kirk Fogg is here too as a theme park tour guide.
Frankly, it's amazing how they fit parts of the show into this adventure. The team names were animals that lived in the temple, one of the kids is given a helmet by his parents just in case he jumps into something dangerous and needs it, the three minute count down, and, of course, Silver Monkey Shrine jokes. This is only a small sample. Fans of the show will love spotting these. I did, obviously.
Furthermore, it is not just a translation of elements. There is a cohesive narrative here. There's backstory to explain the purpose of the quest (for once, Olmec's stories include himself). The three siblings have character development (mostly the elder two). Yes, the plot is simple and straightforward, maybe even "bare boned" but it is solid. It has just enough to support the main event.
The TV show Legends of the Hidden Temple was basically a game show with an adventure theme. The movie takes the premise that the game show was based on real events, the temple itself is real, and it contains all the rooms and things used in the TV show.
Naturally, three siblings come across it and end up stuck inside.
For fans of the 90s show, it’s fun to see the enormous number of references to the show’s conventions and themes. Kirk Fogg, the show’s host, is a tour guide who insists the legends were real. Olmec, the talking stone head, was originally the leader of a great civilization who ended up transformed into a statue after trying to fight off an invasion. The teams that were named after animals, like the Red Jaguars or the Green Monkeys? All those animals are real, and live in or near the temple.
Most of the movie is basically the two brothers and older sister making their way from room to room, navigating deadly traps and solving puzzles, essentially the equivalent of the “temple run” segment of the game show turned into a big adventure. Arrows shoot out of a wall, a red jaguar attacks, and the kids climb up the arrows. The temple guards show up and demand the kids give up the pendant of life, since they want its magical properties. There’s a moat crossing sequence as well, with the bad guys chasing the kids, and blue barracudas in the water.
The movie has a few big flaws though.
For one, who is it made for? The game show was from the early 1990s, whereas today’s kids in the 2010s are much less likely to be familiar with it. But the story is pretty barebones and contains some corny humor that adults will find dumb or even cringeworthy.
There’s also the problem of mood. The movie is an adventure, and while it obviously contains jokes, one big exaggerated joke is made about the infamous shrine of the silver monkey. In the show, kids would often lose due to their difficulty in putting the monkey statue together. What happens in the movie? We see a title card saying “Four hours later” before showing the kids still stuck on it. Did that time really pass? Is this a cartoon or something?
This then leads into a scene where the kids cry over how much they miss their parents. But judging by the movie’s apparent timeframe, they’ve been in the temple for less than half a day. What’s there to miss?
And if they’ve been there that long, why are they never shown as being hungry? Because it’s a fun adventure of course, but that “four hours” joke and misplaced attempt at drama clash badly with the upbeat yet exciting adventure they seem to be trying to establish.
Still, if you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the cheesy Fanservice about the original show, the movie provides a fun time, even with no real plot. And it’s short at only an hour long.
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