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The Independent Critic

Sammi Hanratty, Billy Unger, Jansen Panettiere
Bill Muir
Rated PG
It was hard to tell considering the frequent tech glitches
MeThinx Entertainment, Downes Brothers Entertainment
Activity Guide; Special Message from Alex Kendrick


 "The Lost Medallion" Review 
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I was having dinner the other evening at Mayberry Cafe, a wonderfully retro diner in Danville, Indiana where everything you've always loved about Andy Griffith, Barney Fife, Aunt Bea, Opie and the rest of the gang comes to life amidst a delicious home-cooked meal and servers so friendly you'll feel like you're family.

The Lost Medallion reminds me a lot of my experiences at Mayberry Cafe, one of my favorite diners and an establishment that offers such a wonderful experience that I'll drive out of my way to go there again and again.

If you're a parent, you already know that it's incredibly challenging to find movies entertain our kids will instilling in them the values and beliefs that will help them grow into faithful, loving and responsible adults.

The Lost Medallion does the job.

The Lost Medallion is aimed almost squarely at what they call the "tween" population, those kids who are really too old for the Veggie Tales films yet they're also not quite mature enough for the more adult adventure fare that hits your average cinema multiplex. It features what I'd call "kidventure," though I'm aware even reading that word that it sounds a bit condescending. Rest assured, it's not intended as a slight. If Disney decided to dabble in faith inspired cinema, I have the feeling a finished film would look an awful lot like The Lost Medallion. The film features child-friendly dramatics, children as heroes and cartoon-style yet effective bad guys.

The Lost Medallion starts off with archaeologist Michael Stone (Ken Streutker), whose entire life has been spent looking for a lost medallion with what is said to be amazing powers. His son, Billy (Billy Unger, television's Lab Rats & You Again), is a junior adventurer who really only longs to help his father search for the medallion but his offers of assistance are constantly rejected.

Billy spends much of his time with his best buddy, Allie (Sammi Hanratty, television's The Unit and Amazing Love), an American girl who lives in a local orphanage after having been abandoned by her adoptive parents. Before long, Billy and Allie manage to unearth the lost medallion but then come face-to-face with a couple of cartoonish bad guys who have their own plans to control the medallion's powers. Confronted by the bad guys, Billy makes a spontaneous wish and is abruptly swept back in time 200 years where the evil warlord Cobra (Mark Dacascos, television's Hawaii Five-O) steals the medallion and both Billy and Allie must do everything in their power to get it back. They're joined in the efforts by an arrogant "would be" king (Jansen Panettiere, The Perfect Game), a token fat kid (William Corkery) and, of course, one incredibly wise man (James Hong, Kung Fu Panda 2) who will guide them all towards conquering their fears, weaknesses and those really determined bad guys.

Refreshingly, Writer/director Bill Muir has skipped all the usual Hollywood marketing gimmicks such as pop culture references and excessively violent special effects in creating The Lost Medallion. While these might make the film a tad more marketable, they would also contradict the film's lessons about friendship, being true to oneself and integrity. The Lost Medallion is, quite simply, a quality family film with positive values and light action sequences that should make it safe viewing for children of virtually any age.

One of the film's genuine strengths is the natural camaraderie that's exhibited between Billy and Allie, courtesy of the relaxed and natural performances of Billy Unger and Sammi Hanratty, both television and film vets who are clearly comfortable on camera. At first glance, neither Hanratty nor Unger is particularly convincing as "action heroes," but then that's actually the biggest lesson in The Lost Medallion - We all have a "hero" inside of us and it's through our faith and our friendships and our loyalty that these heroic traits grow inside us and come to life when we need them. 

The real purpose of The Lost Medallion is to watch Billy and Allie share their adventures as friends who learn valuable lessons and who become better human beings along the way. Both Unger and Hanratty are  convincing as friends,  and they completely sell the idea that they would go on such an adventure together. Hanratty is given more to work with here, with her Allie being an obviously wounded girl whose self-esteem has been devastated by the abandonment she's experienced. Hanratty plays off the vulnerability quite well, and she becomes even more convincing as the film unfolds and becomes even more complex. While the character of Billy is a bit more of a traditional adventurer, Unger also does a nice job here in portraying a boy who grows into the young man that he's supposed to be.

The film's best performance is unquestionably that of James Hong, a complete and utter delight as Faleaka. Faleaka is sort of a cross between Yoda and Mr. Ping, the character that Hong voiced in Kung Fu Panda 2. At times, it almost feels like Hong is trying out for Mr. Miyagi with his witty yet pointed platitudes and under the radar heart and humor. He seems to be the one in the film who really nails the perfect blend of action and comedy that fits perfectly for the film.  Mark Dacascos is also solid in a supporting role, while those paying attention may recognize Alex Kendrick (Courageous, Facing the Giants, Fireproof) making a relatively brief yet important appearance in the film.

The Lost Medallion
was filmed in Thailand, and while there are certainly more challenging tasks than making Thailand look beautiful enough still cannot be said about Brian Baugh's pristine lensing and Mona Nahm's excellent production design, both lending the film an air of spirituality that fits its themes of friendship, real leadership and good overcoming evil. The original music from Marc and Steffan Fantini also fits the film's youthful adventures quite nicely, at times coming off with just a hint of Indiana Jones style spirit.

In leading up to its Spring 2013 limited nationwide release, The Lost Medallion has already been making quite the name for itself at film festivals and in screenings nationwide. For more information on The Lost Medallion, visit the film's website and if you do head to the website be sure to check out the upcoming theatrical release dates and locations that start on March 1st! You can even request a screening in your own city!

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic