There is one distinguishing factor, however, wish separates this from the other Young Indiana Jones movies: Harrison Ford has second billing as an older Indiana Jones, and the film's bookends feature him recalling his adventures as a younger man as he goes searching for an ancient Native American artifact. He only has about ten minutes of screen time, but his presence alone is worthy of notice. This is his fouth outing as the whip-weilding archeologist, and he basically eats the role up for the few lines he has and then collects his paycheck. I liked the look of Indiana Jones from 1950. He aged well, still holding his whip and wearing his hat, but now with more rugged features and a beard. I'm curious to see more movies about what happened in between The Last Crusade and Mystery of the Blues.
My question, however, is this: Could this then be the fourth Indy movie? Technically, since it is the further adventures of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, this could be the case. Even though it is labeled here as chapter 20 of the series, suggesting that it is merely one of many episodes of the show, it's alright because in the official process in chaptering of the series that Lucas placed on each video box, even the Ford films got numbered, and Temple of Doom came before Raiders of the Lost Ark in the chapters, despite the fact that it was released later. Whether Mystery of the Blues is the next chapter in the film series or not, it is still bound to appease the fans of the films until Ford dons the whip and hat again for another big screen outing, which is due to start filming in a few years.
As a movie itself, it's pretty mild. Young Indiana Jones has always had less action in his adventures than the elder Indy, but that is only because the TV show was attempting to be social commentaries, as Indy sees the world and its history as it truly was, and over-the-top action sequences would have bogged that idea down. There have always been several scenes of action thrown in other Young Indy episodes, however, but this one is lacking even those. Instead, the movie focuses on Indy's quest to discover jazz, and he meets important historical figures in pursuit of that. There is a lot of music and a lot of discussion on racial prejudice, but there is no action for most of the film (with the exeption of Ford's segment at the beginning, which features a fun car chase through snow). Later, as Young Indy gets tangled up in some prohibition wars with his college roomate Elliot Ness, there is one excellent action scene, and it is great welcome. However, it only shows what is needed throughout the film: Some intense action sequences. That would have made the movie tick much better, and it would have been much more engaging.
However, as a film itself, it is certainly not bad. What could have been cliched in the racial tensions expressed is actually quite brilliant, featuring Indy actually facing reverse discrimination, and the scenes dealing with gangsters and Al Capone are quite intruiging. The idea of playing the blues provides a nice segue between showing two different wars that were being fought in the 1920's within America: racism and prohibition. These two domestic battles are paralleled with World War I throughout, and it is all well-written and excellently acted by Sean Patrick Flanery as Young Indy, who doesn't look a thing like a young Indiana Jones, but he makes up for it in his performance. I was never bored with the film, and it was entertaining in a way that I wouldn't expect an Indy film to be. However, the overblown action scenes were missing.
As an unofficial fourth Indy movie, it will do till Ford, Lucas, and Speilberg decide to do another big screen film. But I'm holding my breath!
*** out of ****