Not only is Indiana Jones back in movie theaters this summer, he also can be found at Burger King, on cans of Dr Pepper and on toy store shelves.
While the PG-13 Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may not be suitable for some children, toymakers took care not to leave anyone — or any market — out. My home, with boys ages 10, 7 and 5, made for a perfect testing ground for all things Indy, from an adventurous Potato Head to a chance at a life full of fortune or glory.
Expectations were high just based on the mailing box, designed to look like a wooden crate, complete with the stenciled words "Property of Dr. Jones" and a photosensitive device that played the movie theme every time the lid was opened. Here's how the contents measured up.
B Buckberry Joyce, Times staff writer
Taters of the Lost Ark
Retail: $14.99 (yes, $14.99!)
Ages: 2 and up
What we liked: A potato with a theme song! My 5-year-old, as expected, was the most taken with this one, but the fedora that plays snippets from John Williams' classic theme caught the attention of just about anyone who walked by.
What we didn't: Our potato had some balance issues when sporting the signature hat. It took a careful touch to keep it upright. . . . Potato Heads also have fleeting appeal in our household, which makes it rather pricey at $14.99.
Bottom line: A great desk toy for someone who's long been an Indy fan.
Indiana Jones Electronic Sound FX Whip
Ages: 6 and up
What we liked: This toy scored well with all three boys and, surprisingly, me. Usually I'm one to avoid things the boys can turn into weapons (and you'd be surprised at what has qualified), but this one actually was harmless over the several days it was in our household. Plus it covered all sorts of imaginative play, from Indiana Jones to a cowboy to a uniquely outfitted Jedi knight. (And did we mention the theme music? It has the theme music! Plus whip-cracking sound effects!)
What we didn't: It's kind of goofy looking, like a musically enhanced draft stopper. . . . And did we mention the theme music? And the whip-cracking sound effects? Yeah, those can get old. The "convenient switch that lets you turn the sounds on or off" is just as convenient for a kid, meaning you really can't turn it off (except for removing the batteries).
Bottom line: We'll take it — and think it's worth every penny when we can throw together a Halloween costume in five minutes next fall.
Indiana Jones 12-inch figure with Whip-Cracking Action
Ages: 5 and up
What we liked: He looks the part, complete with hat that doesn't come off (thus avoiding a meltdown of epic proportions, for what is Indy without his hat?), a pistol and, of course, a whip.
What we didn't: While I have long dreamed to welcome Indiana Jones into my home, this is not exactly what I had in mind. For one, the doll, er, action figure looks more like Scott Bakula than Harrison Ford. And the whip-cracking action really doesn't work. The arm has to be positioned just so, and it took several tries to get the whip to snap forward. Our figure ended up flagellating himself more than anything else.
Bottom line: Indy is no match for the retro G.I. Joe.
Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game
Ages: 7 and up
What we liked: We haven't seen the movie, but that didn't matter. This game, which involves moving an Indy game piece down a set of stairs that can collapse at any moment, was a hit. Once the rules are made clear (be prepared for a slow round or two as everybody figures them out), the game plays quickly with some suspenseful moments along the way. Strategic thinkers are rewarded, though a lot still rests on the roll of the die. Players younger than 7 can be part of the action with a little help.
What we didn't: The Indy game pieces often fall off the temple stairs accidentally, meaning you might have to step in a time or two to referee until everybody gets the hang of it. . . . This is a game with a limited life span in our household. Once you lose one of the removable steps or someone (human or hound) chews the tiny Indy figure, your game is ruined.
Bottom line: Let Grandma give this one as a birthday gift. She'll score points and you'll save money.
The Game of Life, Indiana Jones version
Retail: $19.99, Target store exclusive
Ages: 9 and up
What we liked: This is not Life as you know it. Some of the actions featured on the game cards include "a soldier is decapitated," "you are hanging above crocodile-infested waters," and "enemies throw poison darts at you." While this might not suit every child, our players — my sons and some neighbor girls, ages 5 to 12 — were totally into it. The game board features three movie paths — Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and Last Crusade — that have varying levels of risk and reward. Since you're playing for "fortune or glory," it's all good.
What we didn't: They really mean it when they say ages 9 and up. The game is complicated and comes with rules reference cards for each player. Do not lose them!
Bottom line: Great alternative to sweaty games of kickball in the summer heat.