Kingdom of the Crystal, Dull: Indiana Jones Jumps the Shark

Remember that old TV show “Happy Days”?

The one starring Henry Winkler as “the Fonz”?

Late in its run, the show featured an episode with Fonzie jumping a shark on water skis (and yes, he was wearing his trademark leather jacket).

Those of you who may have missed this magic moment can now watch it on YouTube – just search for “Fonzie Jumps the Shark.”

In pop culture parlance, the phrase “Jump the Shark” now refers to that moment in the life of a series that marks a low point, signaling the beginning of the end of what used to be a compelling story.

With the fourth installment of Indiana Jones, we have arrived. It’s curtains for Indy, for good. At least, let’s hope so.

How bad is “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”?

Aside from one very cool scene involving an army of fire ants, it is a stinker, and for so many reasons.

Here are ten.

1. The hero: Harrison Ford is back and older. Ford looks good, but he delivers his lines with all the aplomb of a man who’d rather be practicing carpentry at his Montana getaway home.

2. The damsel: Karen Allen returns as Indy’s former love interest from the original. She, too, looks great – but seems embarrassed to be on screen. Whatever frisson there was between the two characters is gone, replaced by a series of silly one-liners about “coulda woulda shoulda” stuff. Bleah.

3. Son of Indy: Turns out, our couple sired a son, who arrives via motorcycle in the film, and who mostly gets to comb his hair, drive his bike around, and crack stupid one liners. He also wears a leather jacket just like Fonzie. Coincidence? You decide. Where’s a shark when you need one?

4. The villain: The usually-magnificent Cate Blanchett is utterly wasted here as a rapier-wielding Russian diva with a bad haircut and an accent to match. Snoresville.

5. The bad guys: I did say “Russians,” didn’t I? C’mon now, the Cold War’s been over for two decades. Can’t we come up with a more intriguing set of villains to demonize, like the Chinese or maybe some evil Arabs? This is Hollywood’s stock-in-trade, and they blow it badly here.

6. The side-kick: Indy’s old friend Marcus is back for a run, and he swaps sides and allegiances no fewer that four times in the film, with absolutely no explanation as to why. Get the bullwhip!

7. The bull whip: Speaking of Indy’s signature weapon, you can count on one hand the number of times it gets cracked, mostly in the first ten minutes of the film. Lame.

8. The plot: Plot?

9. The space aliens: I kid you not. “Close Encounters,” anyone?

10. The waterfall: Three falls, three plunges, three opportunities to do something interesting. Um, nope.

I could go on, but space does not allow me to. Let’s hope that everyone involved in this travesty water skis away from any possibility of making a fifth installment as quickly as possible. In the meantime, if you’ve already seen “Crystal Dull,” I suggest renting the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” film immediately, to remind yourself just how fun Indiana Jones used to be.