The journey of The Lost Medallion begins as Daniel Anderson (Kendrick) visits a foster home to drop off a donation and is quickly roped into telling the kids a story. Daniel tells the tale of Billy Stone (Billy Unger - Lab Ratson Disney XD,American Treasure, You Again) and Allie (Sammi Hanratty- American Girl, A Christmas Carol), two 13-year old friends who uncover a long-lost medallion and accidentally wish themselves back in time.
In order for Billy to save Allie's life, he must give up the lost medallion to Cobra (Dacascos), who rules the island and its people. In order to retrieve the medallion and save the island people from slavery, Billie and Allie must work together with a young arrogant king (Jansen Panettiere- The Perfect Game), the king's best friend (William Corkery), and a wise old man (James Hong- Kung Fu Panda, Chinatown, Blade Runner), who guides their way.
Alex Kendrick is a name that's been behind such faith-based film hits as Fireproof and Courageous (he directed both), and the latest project for him to get involved in is director Bill Muir's The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone. The movie, which evidently was filmed four or five years ago and is just getting released now, seems to have been hung up in post-production limbo before Kendrick's involvment. Rumor has it that the film was a standalone tale before Kendrick inserted himself and a storytelling thread element into the movie. As such, Kendrick plays a man named Daniel who visits a foster home to drop off some donations when he gets roped unexpectedly into telling a story to the kids. The story, which is ultimately the one that makes up The Lost Medallion, is one he just makes up on the spot (which would explain its poorly told story as a movie) and uses the names of kids in the foster home to spin a tale of encouragement for the youngsters. Daniel and the kids occasionally pop up during the storytelling to remind you that this is a fantasy, which kind of interrupts the flow of the central Lost Medallion story, but integrates it all together.
As for the core adventure tale, it isn't great, but there certainly have been worse. However, Kendrick has been quoted himself as describing this as an Indiana Jones-style tale for kids, minus any objectionable language or sexual content. But the quality of the film is a far cry from even the most poorly executed of the Indiana Jones saga, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. On top of that, there's some violence in the film that may surprise some parents too. The story revolves around a young boy named Billy who lost his mother and lives with his single, archaeologist father who wants nothing to do with him. That plot element alone feels nonsensical in the way its handled (including the father saying something like "the only things that matter to me in this life are buried," which means his wife and the Medallion...not his son), but it's nothing uncommon to stories like this. However, the disconnected father plot piece has been much more effectively used before. His best friend is a young girl named Allie who also has family issues, so the two set out to find the legendary "Lost Medallion." Billy believes that finding the Medallion on his own will make his dad see his worth and simultaneously help save his father's doomed archaeological pursuits. Meanwhile, an evil man who goes by the name of Cobra, who is either the descendant of the original "King Cobra" or somehow immortal (which isn't really explained either), is also in pursuit of the magical Medallion. Cobra is often seen with two thugs who are overly goofy and seem lifted from a Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon. They stalk the children until they're lead to the Medallion's resting place (which also doesn't make much sense as the only person who knew where it was buried was killed immediately after burying it...next to the base of a random tree). Finding the Medallion leads to a chase sequence which eventually leads to Billy wishing their scuffle with the thugs had never happened, and he and Allie find themselves transported to the past. We don't find out exactly how long ago they land, but apparently it's the ancient past, and shortly after the Medallion had first been lost. In this foreign land, the women wear designer sweaters that look plucked from a clothing rack in JC Penny and are meant to pass for period clothing, while everyone speaks perfect, fluid, modern day english. To make matters worse, no one seems to find the sudden appearance of kids in modern clothes the least bit bizarre (save for one single moment where their adolescent and bratty king is curious about the zipper on Billy's jacket, which he unzips to discover he's got the Medallion). To make matters a little more bizarre, the thugs who chased them in the present are there again in the past as "trackers" and ultimately are the same characters. And the suit-wearing Cobra from the present is now King Cobra in the past, a creepy and evil king who intends to get the Medallion in order to have unlimited power for ruling the kingdom (whatever kingdom this may be?).
Whew. If it sounds at all convoluted, it certainly is. Adding in Kendrick's storytelling thread may help excuse the fact that the story feels like it's just being made up as it goes along. On its own, it feels like a couple kids wrote the movie, and maybe that has something to do with the preteens in the main cast being the smartest and most capable people in the story. But when you've seen really good kids movies, it makes the ones that only kids will appreciate stand out as the poorly made movies that they really are. Thanks to companies like DreamWorks and Pixar, we know that animated films can be made for audiences of all ages to really enjoy. It's sad when you can watch a movie like The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone and can easily imagine the Mystery Science Theater 3000 team having a field day with it.
To make matters worse--and there are some spoilers in this paragraph, so skip this if you don't want to read them--the time-travel element seems to have no sensical rules. They take cues from movies like Frequency or Back to the Future III when it comes to objects from the past or future being available to the characters at different times. For example, in the present, the kids find the Medallion. It transports them to the past. In the past, the Medallion was buried elsewhere, in addition to the version of the Medallion they have from the future. When that one from the future is destroyed in the past, they dig up the one from the past in order to return to the future (wouldn't that mean that the one in the future couldn't have been where they found it if it's been dug up? It's a time paradox). Then, back in the present day, they dig it up again for their father to find when they leave the past one in the past with the adolescent king. Basically, unless that king returned the Medallion to the hole in the ground where he found it, none of the events in the movie could have happened. (Do you have a headache yet?) The adventure story carries a good theme about the value of every person and how God didn't make any of us as a mistake, but the Kendrick storyline spoonfeeds the message to the audience as if they definitely didn't get the point of the message from the adventure story. It's a problem that a lot of Christian films contain; usually the most effective films, message-wise, have a natural faith element to it, without it seeming overly preachy. Unfortunately, The Lost Medallion isn't one of those films. Lastly, the action can be pretty poorly executed at times. Some of the "action" just involves foot chases that look a little silly. Another sequence has the kids being instructed to do random things with pineapples as some sort of lesson. This includes Allie being told to blow up a pineapple and we then see her doing so without any explanation as to how a child knew how to detonate a pineapple. And the lone car chase, where the kids are on a motorcycle being pursued by a jeep, has the most bizarre ending I've seen to such a chase in a film yet. The kids drive through a market and the pursuing jeep barrels through a merchant's stand which apparently has a propane tank right there. After the jeep has rolled through the stand, we see the tank explode and then it cuts to the kids who smile with joy at their victory, and the chase has ended. We don't see the car again and there's no good reason for that explosion to have stopped the jeep from pursuing the children.
Content-wise, the film's only objectionable material is violence. King Cobra has one, long, black fingernail that he apparently dips in poison and uses to kill his victims. There are at least two instances where Cobra grips the throat of his victims and pokes their neck with his nail to kill them. In one instance, he throws a character into a chasm to die. In the first scene that we see him in, he catches up with a man who he's been chasing, grills him for the whereabouts of the Medallion, and then we see him thrust his sharp fingernail toward the character as the screen goes black. Another scene, where the kids set off a trap by accident, implies for a short time that they may have died, but they end up being fine, and the finale involves the villain hanging off of the dangling Medallion into the chasm with Billy holding onto the other end of the necklace (apparently he has superhuman strength too!). Billy is then encouraged to let go, sending the villain to his doom. And lastly, we see a character take an arrow to the chest to save another character and die, with just a hint of blood around the arrow on their clothes when they're hit. That death may be the most impactful for young viewers, while some of Cobra's throat-grabbing murders may be intense for the younger kids as well.
With its plot problems and some poorly executed scenes, families can certainly do far worse than The Lost Medallion (and in all fairness, Hollywood has produced its fair share of cheesy adventure films. Anyone remember the Billy Zane-starrer, The Phantom?). Surprisingly enough, there are some really nice sets and locations in The Lost Medallion. Cobra's temple and throne are pretty impressive, while some locations used while filming in Thailand really add a lot to the look of the movie. In the acting department, Billy Unger, who plays Billy, and Sammi Hanratty, who plays Allie, are decent as the leads. Unger sometimes seems to be playing it like he's imagining all of this in his head while playing in his backyard, while othertimes he seems like a tween version of Brendan Fraser's Rick O'Connell in The Mummy. Mark Dacascos, who was in the 80s film based on the video game, Double Dragon, channels that 80s fantasy film villain pretty well as Cobra, being over-the-top but entertaining at the same time. His character is pretty one-dimensional and by the book when it comes to villains in an adventure film, but I've seen far, far worse than Dacascos's Cobra. And James Hong turns in a candid performance as a wise man who joins the kids on their journey (kids would recognize his voice as Po's dad in the Kung Fu Panda movies). It's nice to see a recognizable face in a movie like this one. Sadly, most of the other cast is either forgettable or annoying, but that's not entirely surprising for a movie like this one.
When all is said and done, The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone will probably fair much better with young viewers than seasoned moviegoers like this reviewer. If you're not picky about plot holes or acting, you'll probably do fine, as The Lost Medallion is still a watchable faith-based movie. But if you're weary of films like Fireproof or Courageous, The Lost Medallion won't change your feelings about these kinds of films. You could do worse than The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone, but it's not a movie I can recommend paying your hard-earned dollars to see.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/14/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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