Picks and Pans Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

updated 06/05/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/05/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Harrison Ford, Sean Connery

Take a good look at this movie. In fact, go back four or five times and take four or five good looks. In this imperfect world, you're not likely to see many manmade objects come this close to perfection.

Director Steven Spielberg has taken all the best elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark (with little of the mystical mumbo jumbo) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (without the gratuitous violence and child abuse) and combined them into an adventure film that is fast, muscular, playful, warmhearted and sheer pleasure.

Connery was an inspired bit of casting as Jones's father, a quixotic scholar who has devoted his life to trying to find the Holy Grail, the cup Christ drank from at the Last Supper. With Harrison Ford around to handle the heroics, Connery can be whimsical, clever, eccentrically resourceful and, of course, as courageous as a lion when he really has to be. Screenwriter Jeffrey (Innerspace) Boam wrote Jones the Elder into a marvelous character, and Connery gives him a bright tone and style that strike just the right contrast to the laconic, slightly sour Ford. Their scenes together are models of father-son dynamics. When Ford complains that Connery didn't pay enough attention to him as a boy, Connery just shrugs and says, "You left just when you were becoming interesting."

Desperate for a shred of criticism? Okay: The plot, in which Indiana competes with Nazis in a search for a religious artifact, is very similar to that of Raiders.

Suffering through that minor bit of déjà vu is a small price to pay. Spielberg uses gorgeous locations in Venice, Spain and the American West to fill the screen with colorful, fascinating images. He gives Ford a different sort of romantic interest in steely Alison (A View to a Kill) Doody. (When they realize they have both slept with her, Connery says to Ford, "Well, I'm as human as the next man." And Ford adds, "But I was the next man.")

Boam and Spielberg set up a clever ending involving mysterious clues and a fearsome challenge—the phrase "leap of faith" has never been more imaginatively, charmingly employed. And they set the movie up for Connery's arrival in the plot with an opening flashback in which River (Running on Empty) Phoenix, as the teenage Indiana, takes on some villains and not incidentally indulges in the whip-handling, snake-fearing, fedora-wearing behavior that will become his trademarks.

It's a flash of a beginning that all but announces, "We're about to have some serious fun, folks." This is not a movie you want to miss the first five minutes of. Come to think of it, this is not a movie you want to miss any minutes of. (PG-13)

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