Rifftrax review: Raiders of the Lost Ark

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Rifftrax is basically the descendant of MST3K. Mike Nelson and his guests (often people associated with the Best Brains) provide a humorous commentary track on an MP3. You, the viewer, pop in your copy of the DVD in the player and watch the movie simultaneously. While you don’t get the funny shadow puppets on the bottom of the screen, this scheme lets the Rifftrax crew comment on movies that you might actually have in your DVD library, like “Spider-Man” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The “Raiders of the Lost Ark” includes commentary from Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. I find that I enjoy the Rifftrax best when all three are involved. Two commentators aren’t bad: I’ve previously listened to “The Matrix” Rifftrax with only Mike and Kevin. However, when the three commentators are involved, you get the three-man dynamic that allows two of the commentators to goof with each other while the third plays the straight man. Also, you can more easily imagine that Mike is back in the Satellite of Love with Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.

The crew offers no sympathy for Harrison Ford, recalling his most recent movie failures like “Six Days, Seven Nights,” “Hollywood Homocide,” and “Firewall.” Especially “Firewall.” They also called attention to the fact that Harrison really loved to smirk his way through the movie. While much of it was funny, I felt the crew was off target when they claimed Harrison was bland and unremarkable. (Hey, I’ll admit that Harrison Ford’s got a presence to him.)

And then there were all the puns on Indiana’s name, which weren’t that funny. It’s not like “Indiana Jones” is an obscure, unknown name. I laughed at Kevin Murphy’s long list of real life people whose names doubled as states, though.

And for some reason, the guys insert some weird riffs on Kanye West’s ego.

There are a lot of good riffs, though. Mike and Kevin have a good take on Marian’s incessant “Indy!” whining. Mike has some fun on what Marian meant when she says she was in love with Indy as a child, and he took advantage of her. (“Wow! Suddenly, it’s the Woody Allen story.”)

There’s some chuckles to be had at cheap jokes about French and German stereotypes. There’s also some fun observations on how Indy seems to have an apathetic disregard over the locals. (“Note to self: getting away with murder not as difficult as made out to be!”) And you can’t go wrong with a well timed slam on Hitler. (German soldier: “Between you and me, he’s kind of a d**kweed!”)

The patter is best during the Nepalese bar scene (and anything involving booze), the chase scene at the marketplace, and the big fight scene aboard the Nazi truck. That last one is good timing, since I found the Nazi truck scene to be the most tedious part of the movie the first time I saw it unRifftracked. It was acutally the opposite from what I expected. In MST3K, it’s ususally the slow, dialogue-filled moments that provide the best riffs. I guess that’s what separates a typical MST3K movie from a good movie: the dialogue in Indy is not a mockable.

And then there’s my favorite line. When a guy catches on fire in the Nepalese bar, and Corbett comments, “How ’bout some Mongolian barbecue!” Heh. Guess you had to be there.

So in conclusion, this is a fine Rifftrax. It’s not as good as the one for “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” However, “Star Trek” has millions of built-in jokes from years of Trekkie familiarity, while Indiana Jones has not been mocked as much.

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