“Legends of the Hidden Temple” makes its nostalgic return


Long ago, in a distant time period known only as the 90s, Nickelodeon had game shows for kids. Among classics such as “Guts” and “Double Dare,” there was “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” where kids competed for the chance to enter the eponymous temple and retrieve a faux-historical artifact for prizes.
The show today is remembered by Millennials for its vaguely ancient Mayan theme, the giant animatronic stone head voiced by Dee Bradley Baker that provided exposition, and the fact that almost no one ever beat the temple.
Nickelodeon has unearthed the old show as the basis for a TV movie.
“Temple” wastes no time in setting up the plot; elder sister Sadie (Isabela Moner) middle child Noah (Colin Critchley) and little brother Dudley (Jet Jurgensmeyer) are all on the tour for the Legends of the Hidden Temple theme park. Noah is obsessed with the program, and is determined to prove that the legendary temple is real.
And not even ten minutes in, he gets his wish. After receiving a map and some exposition from Kirk Fogg, the theme park’s tour guide and real-life host for the original show, the kids are promptly dumped into the set of the Hidden Temple.
Naturally, we soon find that what appeared to be a prop is in fact a real magic temple, complete with Olmec, the eponymous talking stone head, now computer animated instead of animatronic, but still voiced by Baker.
Now, the kids must brave the perils of the Hidden Temple, retrieve the MacGuffin - here called the Life Pendant - and return it to its rightful place. Only then will the Temple open, and the ancient race trapped within be free at last. Just to make things more interesting, evil temple guards are there too, determined to take the Pendant for themselves.
That’s about it for the plot. A generic set of kids race to save an ancient society of what appears to be strangely caucasian-looking Mayans. Complete with generous heapings of kid-appropriate mortal peril, and nostalgia for the older group.
This is an inherently silly concept. The heroes and villains outside from the kids are so one-note, they barely get any speaking lines. The kids themselves are little more than standard kid tropes, with Noah as the reckless hero, Saide as the responsible one, and Dudley as the comedic relief who’s occasionally helpful. The whole film is little more than a thinly-veiled excuse to get a bunch of kids on an Indiana Jones-slash-Goonies style adventure.
But to its credit, the movie seems to know this, and wants you know it too. We establish that early on, when Dudley befriends a green monkey – literally, a monkey that’s been photoshopped green – and learns its name is Mickey. Not because the green monkey is magic or anything, but because Dudley can speak, in his own words, “Millipede, monkey and a little mouse.”
Never mind how, he just can. Sure, why not?
And that really sums up the whole movie. It knows perfectly well it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, so it cheerfully invites you to not overthink things and just enjoy the set pieces, the “descent for child actors” performances and the callbacks to the original “Temple,” of which there are a lot.