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‘The Adventurer’: Family action movie short on thrills

In an unfortunate top hgifted actor Michael Sheen makes an unconvincing actihero “The Adventurer.”  |   RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

In an unfortunate top hat, the gifted actor Michael Sheen makes an unconvincing action hero in “The Adventurer.” | RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

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Capt. Charity Michael Sheen

Otto Luger Sam Neill

Mariah Mundi Aneurin Barnard

RLJ Entertainment presents a film directed by Jonathan Newman and written by Christian Taylor and Matthew Huffman. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated PG (for adventure action and violence, some peril and brief smoking). Opens Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30.

Updated: February 11, 2014 6:10AM

During one of her numerous beat-down sessions with the title character of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Llewyn’s inadvertently impregnated girlfriend accuses him of having a sort of reverse Midas touch.

In other words, everything he touches turns to ... well, something quite the opposite of gold.

It would be going too far to say “The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box” is a prime example of Midas touch in reverse — it isn’t entirely doo-doo — but it doesn’t exactly live up to its name, either.

There simply isn’t a whole lot of excitement being generated in this lackluster family adventure, though it tries oh so very hard. Based on a young-adult novel by G.P. Taylor (whose past includes serving as a roadie for the Sex Pistols and an Anglican vicar, FYI), “The Adventurer” is the first in a proposed series of films featuring young Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard). It’s Victorian-era England, and Mariah’s parents are secret agents for something called the Bureau of Antiquities, along with devil-may-care adventurer Capt. Charity (Michael Sheen in an unfortunate top hat and leprechaun pipe).

The grievously wounded Charity gets things rolling by giving Mariah’s parents the two halves of an amulet that control the Midas Box, he device King Midas used to turn anything he wanted into gold. That makes them targets of the evil Otto Luger (the always reliable Sam Neill), who has discovered the box can be turned into a powerful weapon he plans to use for world domination. Just before being kidnapped, Mom and Dad slip the amulet halves to Mariah and his dweeby little brother Felix (Xavier Atkins), and soon they’re being chased by Luger’s thugs — with the miraculously recovered Charity popping up for occasional, pseudo-swashbuckling backup.

Lots and lots of supposedly spooky, mysterious and exciting stuff happens later, after Mariah tracks Luger to his remote-island headquarters. Somehow, all the complicated activity fails to arouse much interest, despite a little young love here, a little steampunk spectacle there and even the supposed presence of a kid-munching monster on the island.

Part of the trouble is that while there’s plenty of amateur investigating on Mariah’s part, very little happens until the action-packed finale and by then you may be past caring. But it’s also a major problem that Sheen, who’s been terrific in “The Queen,” “The Damned United” and the like, just plain isn’t credible as an action hero.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Capt. Charity gets stabbed or shot pretty much every time he strikes an intrepid action pose. And it’s even worse when he shows up on Luger’s island disguised as an exotic magician from the Far East — wearing a putty nose and a wig that wouldn’t fool a half-blind, not particularly bright child.

It fools young Mariah, though — completely. That really starts to get exasperating after awhile. In fact, when evil Otto eventually refers to the kid as “intrepid, but extremely irritating,” it’s hard not to agree.

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