'Adventure' sorely lacking in bland kid's fantasy film

  • Three friends (Dalila Bela, left, Sam Ashe Arnold and Jakob Davies) discover an ancient "Wish Box" in the underwhelming kids fantasy, "Adventure Club."

    Three friends (Dalila Bela, left, Sam Ashe Arnold and Jakob Davies) discover an ancient "Wish Box" in the underwhelming kids fantasy, "Adventure Club."

 
 
Updated 2/9/2017 11:34 AM

"Adventure Club," a tweenager Indiana Jones movie on an ultratight budget, begins with Todd Bryanton's pulsing, thrilling score promising something the rest of the film doesn't deliver: thrills.

Club members include Ricky (Sam Ashe Arnold), a dreamer with a mysterious family secret; Bill (Jakob Davies), his goofy-looking sidekick; and Sandy (Delila Bela), a whip-smart girl who constantly bails out her two male buds. (Does a movie pay royalties to J.K. Rowling when it borrows her identical hero trio dynamic from "Harry Potter"?)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

These three leads share zero charisma in a flatlined story that might qualify for an After After School TV Special.

Ricky finds a secret map squirreled away inside his deceased, archaeologist grandfather's wooden desk. It depicts an old building that's now the local science museum, supervised by Ricky's single mom Jane (Gabrielle Miller) whose nebulous boyfriend Martin (screenwriter Robin Dunne) seems to be at her house 24/7 without actually living there.

Using the map, Ricky, Bill and Sandy discover a secret room in the museum. Inside, they find an ancient artifact that a grizzled local curio shop owner (Kim Coates) instantly identifies as a "Wish Box," an all-powerful device that grants its owner three wishes when written out on paper (apparently the box reads English) and tossed into the glowing container.

Forget everything you learned in "Aladdin." This Wish Box can grant a wish to have unlimited wishes.

That's why villainous ex-con Langley (Chicago's Billy Zane, the only actor who understands this isn't "Stand By Me" and goes for cartoon theatrics) sets out to steal the Wish Box.

The flaccidly edited "Adventure Club" comes from director Geoff Anderson (he gave us 2012's "Vampire Dog" and 2013's "Step-Dogs"), whose impressive visual effects credits include projects such as "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Straight Outta Compton."

His "Adventure Club" has its heart in the right place (its message of forgiveness for reformed bullies and apologetic family betrayers is admirable), but its brain has gone comatose and its adrenal glands never get excited. Neither do we.

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