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Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Director Steven Spielberg and executive producer/co-writer George Lucas pay homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Thirties and Forties — and they pay handsomely, pumping the project so full of money, production values, and technical razzle-dazzle that it no longer remotely resembles its grade-B models. Not intending exactly a spoof, but not maintaining entirely straight faces either, Spielberg/Lucas seem to want to play both sides of the street, to have both the innocent thrill and the sophisticated titter. Some will find that this two-facedness tends to lower the level of excitement, that although the action is consistently lively it is also without real suspense, and that the viewer is always required to meet the moviemaker more than halfway and fake a response that otherwise would never be extracted by such rudimentary perils as a shower of poison darts, a roomful of human skeletons, a blanket of furry spiders, an army of sadistic Nazis photographed with shadows crawling up their cheeks. The essential point to be made about Raiders is that it is really just a kiddie movie — a kiddie movie de luxe, but a kiddie movie all the same. With Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. (1981) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 1 hour, 45 minutes

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