Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In praise of Mr. Round

Note: This is part of the Indiana Jones Blog-a-thon at Cerebral Mastication.

My childhood years following my introduction to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were spent primarily on two activities: watching the movie repeatedly, and encouraging others to do the same. The latter became easier once I started school, since my parents (and even my younger brother) had long become disinterested in re-enacting the final bridge scene with me on any elevated structure (i.e. park bridges, couches, tables). Temple was well regarded with my Catholic school mates, even though only a few of them were allowed to see it. Almost all of them were familiar with the first half of the title, but it was from another movie, which they called Raiders of the Lost Ark. One of them even claimed Temple was a sequel of sorts.

But that's impossible, I thought, because it's called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, not Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom II: Heartburn. This other movie didn't even have Indiana Jones in the title. Nor, I would find, did it have an opening dance number, a raft plunging out of a plane and through the snow, a gross-out dinner, gruesome rituals, a mine cart chase OR A BRIDGE FINALE THAT COULD BE RE-ENACTED ON FURNITURE! So what did it have? The most common answer I would get to this question was "a part where everyone melts." This sounded fun enough but ... no bridge? When I finally saw Raiders a couple of years later, the omission that disappointed me the most was the lack of any characters near my age.

While the aforementioned scenes were my favorite parts of Temple, it was through Short Round that I experienced them. Short Round allowed me to imagine that a kid could do more than go to school. In fact, there existed the possibility of me driving a car, jumping out of a plane, riding elephants, rescuing hundreds of fellow children and beating up some brat with a doll and a jewel hat. At the same time, Temple didn't feel like a kids movie -- so much so that my parents barely let me watch it. These two elements, a heroic kid in the midst of nightmarish evil, combined to make Temple a source of worship for my young mind for years.

So let's take a look at this under-appreciated boy, and some of his finer moments.

At first you think, "Hey, they let kids drive cars in Shanghai?" But no, this ain't no ordinary young Chinese driver. He's friends with Indy, and he may just help him escape danger.

This line is followed by the first appearance of John Williams' wonderfully spirited Short Round theme.
Damn I love this kid, not only is he the sidekick to Indiana Jones, but he has license to sass anyone else.
Just one of multiple Short Round lines that are fun to use while playing poker.
Best part about this scene is how Short Round is paralyzed by fear through it, just standing and watching Indy dispatch this henchman in thrilling fashion.
Amazingly, this line works because of what we've seen before it about Indy and Short Round's relationship.
Short Round may not be as strong as these slave drivers, but dammit if he can climb a ladder faster than them.
This line is great to use on someone suffering from a hangover, or possibly being awakened from a coma.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. I loved Short Round as a kid. Hell, I love Temple of Doom. It was for those exact reasons -- they let a kid roll with Dr. Jones! And it wasn't a kids movie by any means. It didn't pander, and it didn't treat the adults like fools. Temple worked the other way. Through the adults we as Short Round witness these evil atrocities being committed, but we get to see something else and that's our hero fall from grace (the Black Sleep scene) and return to heroism. Where else did you get to see that? I thoroughly enjoy your insights.

Big Mike Mendez said...

You're exactly right about having a kid in a kid's movie. Short Round represents the kids in the audience and lets us into his world.

Great post.

Damian Arlyn said...

I've always loved Short Round. Some find him too precocious or annoying, but I've always thought he was funny and endearing. His presence not only helps balance out the extreme darkness of the story but gives the film some genuine heart and soul. his declaration of love to Indy after just being hit by him is arguably the only real emotional moment in the entire film (with the exception of the final joyous reunion between all the other lost children and their parents).

I also happen to love the humor of Shorty driving the car with the aid boxes on his feet (a gag repeated in the Coen's O Brother Where Art Though). My only criticism is this: How the hell did Shorty know Indy was going to be falling out a window and landing at THAT particular spot?

Adam Ross said...

Damian -- That "I love you" line has always worked for me as well, and I'm glad it does because on paper it sounds cheesy. It always kills me when Indy says "quit playing with that kid!"

Thanks everyone.


I stand by my statement. TEMPLE OF DOOM is the greatest action adventure film of all time. I'm so glad I've found others who enjoy this movie as much as me.

Eric YSY said...

You need the Chinese humor of practicality to infuse Indiana Jones movie. Love to see Short round grown up playing along side Harrison Ford and Shia Lebouf. Would be great if Jonathan Ke Quan still play the role. But if he doesn't want to, I am willing to stand in for him cause I am Chinese and lots of my friends say I look like him.

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