Grades: The Lost Treasure Of Atlantis: B; The Trail To Doomsday: C-
When MacGyver went off the air in 1992 at the end of its seventh season, the show hadn’t fallen off dramatically in the ratings, yet all concerned—the creators, the actors, the network—felt that the concept of an exceptionally handy secret agent had run its course, creatively and culturally. (When a show becomes a shorthand joke on The Simpsons, the writing is on the wall.) Still, the clamor for more MacGyver in foreign markets brought the show back for two TV movies in 1994: Lost Treasure Of Atlantis and Trail To Doomsday. Seen now, the two movies appear to be stranded out of time. They arrived too late to fit alongside the cartoony adventures of ’80s TV, and too soon for the globetrotting action of National Treasure and The Librarian. These MacGyver movies are too broad, too cheap, and too uncomplicated. Beyond that, though, they aren’t so bad.
Well, one isn’t. Lost Treasure Of Atlantis is a lot of fun, featuring Richard Dean Anderson’s Angus MacGyver navigating ancient castles and trap-laden temples in search of a storied cache of Greek wonders. The “surprise” twists aren’t that surprising—especially for anyone who’s seen Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, with which this movie has some embarrassing similarities—but the action sequences are suitably snappy. MacGyver drives a rocket-powered jeep, descends into a volcano, and concocts elaborate escape plans that in one case require a suit of armor, a candle, and a tea set; in another, he needs a bucket, a length of rope, and ancient ruins. (Kids, do try these at home.)
Between the stunts, the cast yells plot points at each other energetically, such that viewers could close their eyes and enjoy Lost Treasure Of Atlantis as a radio play. But that kind of vigor is missing from the follow-up TV movie. Trail To Doomsday was kind of a rough way for the MacGyver franchise to go out; it’s an especially violent episode that has MacGyver trying to thwart a world-domination plot with the help of a seductive ex-KGB agent. Again, the plot twists are predictable, but this time the action scenes are alternately bland and grim. And there’s one really cool bit of MacGyver industriousness, in which he tries to defuse a bomb with a tennis racket. (Spoiler alert: He succeeds!) This is an adventure unworthy of a hero with such awesomely floppy hair.
Key features: None, though if you had a stick of gum, a AAA battery, and the phone number for Richard Dean Anderson’s publicist, you could make your own.