Friday, December 26, 2014

The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone. A Review


I freely admit to being the most flawed and wavering of Christians.  At times, I'm passionate about Christ.  At other times, I carry an intense cynicism and suspicion on all matters involving God.  I bring this up because The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone is made for a Christian-based audience.  I can tell partially because Alex Kendrick (who is fast turning into a filmmaker I don't respect) is involved in this (albeit in a small role).  I can also tell thanks to the story, which has subtle and not-so-subtle Christian themes.  I am a reviewer who isn't going to knock down a film because of its worldview or praise it because I happen to agree with said worldview.  The fact that The Lost Medallion is geared towards tweens and younger set make it serviceable and keep it from sinking into another debacle of Christian cinema.

Just barely though.

Daniel Anderson (Kendrick) arrives at a foster home to drop off some things before heading out to a big baseball playoff game.  There, he is told about three kids: Huko, a child prone to bullying, Allie, who asked the guardian if God ever made people accidentally, and Billy, the quiet one who has no sense of worth.  He is corralled into telling all the foster kids a story, and he begins to spin his tale.

Billy Stone (Billy Unger) is an archaeologist's son who has recently lost his mother.  He's desperate to join dad Michael (Ken Streutker) on his latest dig searching for a powerful mythical talisman, but dad wants nothing to do with Billy on the dig.  Unbeknown to any of them, they are being watched by a mysterious Mr. Cobb, who with his two bumbling henchmen suspect that Billy is a threat to their own search for the medallion.  Billy has one friend, Allie (Sammi Hanratty), an orphan who wants to run away from the orphanage.  However, Billy convinces her to stay, and together they work to solve the mystery of the medallion.

Good news: they actually find it!  Bad news: they are pursued by henchmen threatening Billy's dad.  Even worse news: the stone his late mother gave Billy is the missing jewel in the medallion, and it grants wishes.  Billy, while wearing it, wishes none of this had happened, and he and Allie are swept back into the past! 

Here, they meet the arrogant Prince Huko (Jansen Panettierre) and his wacky friend Anui (William Corkery).  Huko believes the medallion is his by right, but Billy won't give it up.  Allie does find Huko cute (and I suspect she finds Billy cute too, but hasn't said it out loud).   Well, thanks to circumstances the wicked Cobra (Mark Dacascos) who either eerily looks like Mr. Cobb or may in fact BE Mr. Cobb, has taken the medallion but he cannot use its powers.  Only those with pure hearts can use it.  Therefore, he needs Billy.  Billy, Allie, Huko and Anui now must work together to recover the medallion.  For this, they need eccentric wise man Faleaka (James Hong) to guide them, and while he dies at least he gives them enough to help defeat Cobra.  In the end, all things are restored and Billy and Allie return to the present day, where he helps his dad find the medallion and they are united.

We end up back at the foster home, where Daniel has missed the game but doesn't care, for the three targets of his story now see they are special, and that their medallion is their own heart.  And why wouldn't he have stayed, as we find out in the end he had once been at the same foster home at their age?

There is a certain Indiana Jones feel to The Lost Medallion, and I believe intentionally so.  I could certainly see The Lost Medallion being an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, down to the supernatural/time travel aspects.  The Lost Medallion also is blessed to have a group of relatively competent child actors to anchor this.  Of particular note is Unger as Billy Stone.  While the film was released in 2013 (making Unger 17 years old at the time), I find it hard to imagine that he actually was 17 because he looks more 13.  I also suspect the film was made before its release date because a 17 year old having these adventures and not thinking about Allie in any romantic way seems a wild stretch.

Then again, it IS a Christian film where sex apparently doesn't exist, which would be a surprise to all my Christian friends, particularly the ones who wear promise rings but end up losing their virginities faster than those who don't, but I digress.

Unger makes Billy a believable figure most of the time, at least once we get away from the present day and travel into the past.   He's almost excessively mature emotionally to play naïve, but credit should be given where it is due.  Harritay is also strong as Allie, who is both smart (maybe smarter) than Billy but still a good ol' damsel in distress.  Corkery lends comic relief as the fat, bumbling but sweet Anui, and the highlight of The Lost Medallion was in seeing Allie and Anui reach the mountaintop hom of Faleaka faster than Billy and Huko, who insisted on climbing up a steep mountain while ignoring Allie's suggestion that they walk up the path both failed to see in their mad competitiveness.

Hong was a delight as the odd Faleaka, sometimes spouting off nonsense that in the end made sense and serving as a distraction to guards by making weird noises and dances.  Dacascos was appropriately evil as Cobra, and perhaps this is why I am not finding much fault with The Lost Medallion: it is in essence, a cartoon which we're not suppose to take all that seriously.   This is reinforced with the bumbling henchmen, who appear in both the present and past. 

The henchmen were cartoonish, but again, it's a kids movie so I have to give them a little leeway.

If anything, the push to make this overtly religious is what I think gives The Lost Medallion a few points down.  When Faleaka is arrowed down (is that a term?), Billy asks him, "Why would you die for me?"  Faleaka's answer?  "Because a great king once died for me!" 

Talk about laying it on a bit thick.

In an animated montage we learn of a great king who became one with his people, insisting that they were all worthy of love.  Again, wonder if that could mean anything.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not opposed to having symbolism in a film, even one specifically geared towards the Christian market, but I like the types of films that trust ME to get it rather than insist on spelling it all out for me.

I would recommend The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone to tweens and younger kids who don't ask too much in their entertainment.  Families concerned about violence should know there is some, but mercifully not bloody (though Faleaka's death might be a touch scary).  To the film's credit, it does address that in the few narration scenes with Kendrick (who shows he isn't terrible when he comes in small doses).  It delivers its message, not too ham-fisted but still pretty clearly.

On the whole, it's serviceable, though I would have thought as it is now The Lost Medallion would be better served as a pilot or television movie than as an actual feature-length theatrical release.   I imagine Unger's television show Lab Rats might be wittier and better-made than The Lost Medallion, but not being the target audience for either I cannot say. 

In the end, The Lost Medallion isn't horrible.  It's for kids, and I'll leave it at that.   


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