91 minutes, 2007
The Three Investigators started as a book series that ran from 1964-1987 and included more than 40 books. I own many of them, and hope to pass them to my kids, so when I discovered there was a movie, I knew I wanted to see this one. It lived up to my expectations.
Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews are a team of juvenile detectives that "have never lost a case." Jupiter is the "Sherlock Holmes" of the group, always able to put the pieces together. Pete is the athletic, fearless "muscle" (or, at least, as much as a 13-year-old can be) while Bob is the researcher extraordinaire, their very own version of Google, always ready with a pertinent fact. The team has their headquarters secreted away in Jupiter's aunt and uncle's salvage yard, complete with secret entrances and research materials and old case files.
When Pete's dad invites them to come visit him at his new job site building an amusement park on an island in South Africa, the Three Investigators set out on what they think will be a nice vacation. But, like the book series, events quickly take what seems to be a supernatural/mystical turn - a fearsome mythical beast appears to be haunting Skeleton Island. But, again like the books, there turns out to be a logical explanation, and it is up to Jupiter Jones and his team to figure out what sort of beast it might be, and what secrets it is hiding.
In films starring children, parents are mostly absent, and that holds true here too. While the Three Investigators are only 12 or maybe 13 or 14, they are portrayed as smarter and more capable than the adults around them. And because they are smarter this gives them a reason to ignore parental authority - Pete's dad orders them home, but they decide they have to keep investigating instead. So this is a not so subtle challenge to parental authority, and authority figures overall.
There is minimal violence (some folks get scratched by the beast and a man is hit in the head with a flower pot) but there is enough peril and tension to make this a film that would scare children. I would recommend it for young teens, and no younger.
This will be enjoyed by anyone who grew up reading the Three Investigators series and now wants to point their kids to it. The feel and spirit of the books is captured quite effectively, even if the film doesn't have that much to do with the book of the same title.