Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues (1993) — Harrison Ford plays some jazz

“A good laugh is never a waste of time.”

Justin’s rating: Throw me the series, Indy, and I’ll throw you the whip!

Justin’s review: Following Indiana Jones’ seemingly “last” movie in 1989, George Lucas got behind the idea of taking the famous archaeologist to the small screen. This led to the formation of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, an experimental approach that would examine Indy’s pre-Temple of Doom years as both a kid and an older teenager.

Perhaps inspired by the opening sequence of Last Crusade, the TV series enlisted Corey Carrier to play eight-year-old Indy and Sean Patrick Flanery for the 16-year-old version. The idea was that super-old 93-year-old Indy-with-an-eyepatch (George Hall) was regaling others about his formative years and how he pretty much brushed shoulders with every legend and historical figure of note.

Like many of Lucas’ projects in the ’80s and ’90s, it was at once ambitious and poorly received. I remember lining up to watch a few episodes in my youth and finding it… OK. Adequate. Certainly not nearly as exciting as the movies, especially without Harrison Ford. Apparently a lot of other people thought this way too, because the show struggled hard to find an audience and only lasted for two seasons and four follow-up TV movies.

However, tucked into all of this was one story that actually managed to rope Ford back to the franchise: 1993’s Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues. Obviously, it was stunt casting to the highest degree — I can’t imagine how many favors Lucas called in to get Ford back, and even still, only in a supporting role instead of as the central character. But hey, it’s worth watching if only for that, right?

In Wyoming, 1950, 50-year-old Indiana Jones (Ford) is fleeing some gangsters in the snow along with the classic John Williams score. You will be excused from thinking that this is how the rest of the movie will be, but no, it all leads to Jones explaining to his Native American friend how he ended up with a special peace pipe and a super-short saxophone. Didn’t know Jones played the sax? Now you do.

Also, you should probably know that Jones used to room with Eliiot Ness in college, and that the two of them rub shoulders with the greatest jazz musicians of the age, learn to play the blues, and solve a murder mystery with the help of Ernest Hemingway. It’s all “why not, who cares, just go with it” logic, which I’ll allow because the ’20s setting is so well done and Flanery a ton of fun.

I remember always loving the teen Jones episodes way more than the little kid ones. Flanery has undeniable charm and spirit in the role, and he’s old enough to pull off the physical work when needed. Sure, none of this is globe-hopping, tomb-raiding adventures, but the old school gangster vibes — prohibition! speakeasies! — demonstrates that Indiana Jones could, indeed, be applied to many different settings without degrading the character. Plus, you get a crash course in jazz and some peppy music along the way.

If you come to this only for Ford’s Indiana, then temper your expectations with the understanding that he’s in this less than a handful minutes of the hour-and-a-half runtime. Stil, it’s still fun to see him in all of his bearded glory (Ford was filming The Fugitive at the time) and getting a glimpse of this forgotten little segment of Indiana Jones lore.

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