The Three Investigators

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MUNICH -- Besides its exotic locales, solid cinematography and fine acting, "The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island" is blessed with a charming trio of teen detectives: Jupiter Jones (Chancellor Miller), the smart one; Pete Crenshaw (Nick Price), the cute one; and Bob Andrews (Cameron Monaghan), the kid -- who's actually pretty smart too.

Although the script could really only be taken seriously by persons close to its heroes' ages, it's a reasonable enough effort given the target market. Disney helped back the English-language, German-made film, and its Buena Vista International label has various European territories.

Originally a series of young peoples' detective novels written and set in 1960s-era California, the brand is as famous as the "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" franchises in German-speaking territories. There are a total of 187 books in German, far exceeding the number in English. Almost all of them have been made into radio plays that still are selling well on CD and cassette.

This film version, directed by Florian Baxmeyer and scripted by David Howard, Philip LaZebnik, Thomas Oliver Walendy and made by a team of top-notch American and German professionals, will probably enjoy its boxoffice success outside the land of its birth.

Starting out with a Bond-esque narrow escape, the three young detectives then crash a Sotheby's art auction and triumphantly expose as a fake the painting about to come under the gavel. In another Bond borrowing, the real action begins once the first case is closed (and some cool techie stuff has come on display). The boys are invited to go on a vacation to South Africa, where Pete's father is managing the planned construction of an amusement park on a supposedly haunted island off the coast of Cape Town.

Within hours of arriving, the intrepid trio is knee-deep in a new mystery involving a spirited black girl named Chris and her father from the nearby township. In two age-appropriate romantic scenes between Jupiter and Chris (Naima Sebe), it becomes clear that she prefers the smart one and not the heroic cute one, Pete.

As far as the celluloid incarnation of the franchise is concerned, the production values of this planned first of a trilogy are as high as they would be for any comparable Disney live-action effort.

THE THREE INVESTIGATORS AND THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND
Studio Hamburg International Production
Credits:
Director: Florian Baxmeyer
Screenwriters: David Howard, Philip LaZebnik, Thomas Oliver Walendy
Producers: Sytze Van Der Laan, Ronald Kruschak
Executive producer: Malte Grunert
Director of photography: Peter Krause
Production designers: Billy Keam, Albrecht Konrad
Music: Annete Focks
Co-producer: David Groenewold
Costume designer: Esther Walz
Editor: Ueli Christen
Cast:
Jupiter Jones: Chancellor Miller
Pete Crenshaw: Nick Price
Bob Andrews: Cameron Monaghan
Chris: Naima Sebe
Al Crenshaw: Nigel Whitmey
Bill: James Faulkner
Miss Wilbur: Fiona Ramsey
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating
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