Cinematic curiosities don’t get much curiouser than “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.” Shot-for-shot remake of the 1981 Spielberg/Lucas original commenced shooting one year later in a slavish gesture of fandom … engineered by three Mississippi 12-year-olds. There’s certainly amusement in seeing pokerfaced elementary-to-high-school kids (as they aged over the seven-year production course) take on grown-up adventure roles. But pic’s real delight is its sheer resourcefulness, as stunts and FX are re-created on a shoestring in one of the most elaborate amateur features ever made. Any exposure beyond fest circuit is, natch, a matter for lawyers.
Using the Lawrence Kasdan screenplay and John Williams score, teens and their friends turned backyards into jungles, alleys into Arab bazaars, puppies into monkeys. Dialogue interludes become stiltedly tedious. Yet the close mimicry of Indiana Jones’ more harrowing moments — involving live snakes, actors dangling from moving cars, general pyrotechnics — is often so surprising one wonders whether the filmmakers’ mothers knew what they were up to. Wobbly sound & Betamax-shot images add to oddity’s charm. Spielberg recently met now-grown filmmakers and gave his endorsement; Scott Rudin has purchased story rights to their obsessive childhood “hobby.”