If you’re like me, then hardly a day goes by when you don’t ask yourself, “I wonder what would have happened if the Aztecs had made it as far north as the Grand Canyon?” And if you’re like me, then you’re in luck, because that is (almost) exactly the question this movie sets out to answer. Because somehow, it accepts as a plausible premise the idea that 1800s America would somehow have had no record of the Grand Canyon having a cliff with a gigantic painting of a guy on a rock wall. And no record a ziggurat. And no record of a flying demon-dragon-god-thing that summons clouds and eats people.
The movie is about a team of archaeologists from the Smithsonian who are exploring the Grand Canyon in order to prove that North America was visited by the ancient Egyptians, besides the more well-known and well-documented discoverers. After Susan Jordan’s (Shannen Doherty, Beverly Hills 90210, Charmed) father goes missing, she sets off on a mission to find out what happened to him, accompanied by Jacob Thain (Michael Shanks, Stargate SG-1) and various expendable characters.
I love a Fun adventure movie as much as the next guy; the Indiana Jones series (excluding Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; we here at Jumping Sharks don’t talk about that), the Mummy series (starting with the reinterpretations in 1999); they’re all Fun. And, while The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon fits the bill of being a Fun Movie, in the ridiculous sense, unlike Indiana Jones, it could not be considered a Good Movie. It’s essentially a nerd-boy’s fantasy – the bookish, aloof smart guy overcomes all obstacles to not only show the beautiful girl that he’s worth something, but also to upstage the jock who figures he can get by on physique and action without actually knowing much of anything. So when one of the expendable characters gets his head cut in half by an axe rigged to a door, the nerd can blame it on the jock, who was the one to set off the trap over the objections of the nerd (happens all the time in real life – it’s all fun and games until a booby trap cuts someone’s head in half).
As always, the acting and CGI leave quite a bit to be desired. There’s also a very Scooby-Doo-esque moment wherein our heroes are staring at a rock wall, seemingly oblivious to the very obvious door cut into the cliff face. Moreover, while the movie answers the question of Aztecs in Arizona, it also raises other equally-perplexing questions, such as “why on Earth, when confronted with a vase on a pedestal in a room full of skulls, would you blindly stick your hand into the aforementioned vase?”; “how can a rock the size of a baseball move a small column from a well-supported position on a doorframe to come crashing down on the head of an unsuspecting deity-dragon-thing (a sort of incarnation of Quetzalcoatl)?”; and “how poor do the makers of this movie believe the memory to be that they find it necessary to spend five minutes of an hour and a half movie literally showing a montage of scenes that happened less than two hours ago, in the movie, just to make sure we know that the beautiful girl has fallen completely in love with the nerd? Couldn’t the same be accomplished with the right significant glance in approximately five seconds?”. Not to mention all the token references to the rampant chauvinism of the era that seem to be there just to say “look at us, addressing social issues and stuff”.
In all, The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon is quite the mix of predictability, adventure movie tropes, and SyFy-trademarked CGI. What else can I say?