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  Lost Medallion, The Life lessons from lost civilizations
Year: 2013
Director: Bill Muir
Stars: Billy Unger, Sammi Hanratty, James Hong, Jansen Panettiere, William Corkery, Alex Kendrick, Mark Dacascos, Lisa LoCicero, Hal Rudnick, Sidney S. Liufau, Tiya Sircar, Jennifer Rhodes, Ken Streutker
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Archaeologist's son Billy Stone (Billy Unger) really wants to help find the ancient sacred medallion on Aumakua Island, but his father does not appreciate his enthusiasm. So Billy and his best friend, downtrodden but plucky orphan Allie (Sammi Hanratty) decipher clues on their own. Together they unearth the artefact only to find hired goons working for the mysterious Mr. Cobb (Mark Dacascos) holding Mr. Stone (Ken Streutker) hostage. In mid-struggle Billy inadvertently activates the medallion's mystical powers transporting himself and Allie back two hundred years into the past where ancient islanders proclaim them heroes. This does not sit well with arrogant boy king Huko (Jansen Panettiere) who always assumed he would inherit his ancestor's magical medallion. As it turns out though the evil Cobb, known in his original incarnation as Cobra, still seeks the medallion. His army invades the village and enslaves its inhabitants before Billy, Allie and friends embark on an exciting adventure to save Aumakua Island and somehow find a way back to their own time.

Cult film fans know all about cheap horror and action films but there also exists a thriving direct-to-video market for low-budget family films. As such The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone is a beguiling, well crafted children's adventure that stands out amidst the tide of cynical, grab kids' cash-and-run pap. For one thing it is a surprisingly handsome production. Filmed in Thailand with production input from Wych Kaosayananada, director of the atrocious Antonio Banderas-Lucy Liu misfire Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002), this has the benefit of peppy action sequences to offset some vague plotting and occasionally lethargic direction. More importantly the young leads are highly charismatic. Billy Unger, star of numerous family friendly DTV movies and a Disney Channel favourite, is wholly believable as a badass proto-Indiana Jones while sweet smiling co-star Sammi Hanratty is a charming presence as troubled but gutsy Allie. For although Billy struggles to get his father's attention, Allie was abandoned at the orphanage by a mother and told she was worthless. As a consequence she suffers severe self-esteem issues which dovetail with the film's core message.

While writer-director Bill Muir conceived this as a wholesome adventure romp the story was evidently not moralistic enough for the church-based groups that ended up investing in the film. Hence, a new framing story was added featuring Alex Kendrick as a character entertaining a group of wide-eyed foster kids with this very tale in which the 'real' Billy, Allie and Huko become fictional characters in the world of Billy Stone. Kendrick, an associate pastor with the Sherwood Baptist Church, is a indie filmmaker in his own right. As head of the movie outreach of his church he wrote, directed and starred in such Christian-themed films as Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006) and Fireproof (2008) and authored several spin-off novels based on them including further adventures for Billy Stone, co-written with Muir. Distributed through Sony Pictures and Tri-Star, Kendrick's modest movies routinely turn a profit proving there is a market out there for this kind of thing.

Although Kendrick's character places the film's theme in a more overtly Christian context, happily the moral message does not grow heavy-handed. Indeed the film is neither sappy nor saccharine. There are numerous martial arts fights, many involving children, a boy almost burned alive as a human sacrifice and a sympathetic character dies tragically. The simple notion that no human being is worthless and all life has purpose is part of what makes all fantasies from Star Wars (1977) to Harry Potter so appealing to young children. As such seeing Allie slowly realize she isn't such a waste of space and end up saving everyone proves a heartening experience. Cult film fans will also relish an appearance from James Hong as a wacky but wise old man who somehow encourages each of the young heroes to experiment with pineapples. No, really. It's a life lesson.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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