The Mummy Returns
2001, PG-13, 125 min. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Patricia Velazquez, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Freddie Boath, Oded Fehr, The Rock.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 4, 2001
Exploding corpses, defiled tombs, POV shots of arcane weaponry, and more CGI monsters than you can shake the Staff of Ra at: Summer movie season has officially arrived, and for once the aspiring blockbuster leading off the deluge of big-budget behemoths is a resounding success. Sommers, who helmed the summer '99 prequel to this franchise-in-the-making (itself an updating of the great old Universal Karloff classic) also wrote this outing and, if anything, the faster-than-the-speed-of-doom pacing and hyperkinetic tone make it even more of a cinematic roller coaster than its predecessor. Admittedly, I didn't fall ankh, line, and cerements for the first -- too eager to please, to cartoonish, I thought -- but The Mummy Returns so gleefully abandons any semblance of sanity that it's virtually impossible not to enjoy the sheer breadth of nonsensical fun taking place on screen. It's a hyperactive kid's-eye view of the whole mummy mythos, an action-figures-in-the-sandbox brawl of epic proportions, and a giddy, funny, and charmingly warped family film all rolled into one. Best of all -- to concerned parents looking for a relatively non-gore-splashed cinematic outing to take the kids to (this month, anyway) -- there's nary a drop of the red stuff in sight. Yes, the villainous Im-Ho-Tep (Vosloo, suitably cantankerous) again arises from the Egyptian wastes looking much the worse for his 3,000-year sleep, and sure, plenty of his rotting minions lose their heads in battle, but Sommers' film is, above all, a fantasy, pitched somewhere between the bravado of Indiana Jones and a less-threatening Todd McFarlane (of Spawn fame). It's one big, sandy, comic book of a film, and when the baddies meet their grim ends, they're more likely to explode in a puff of grit than a spray of crimson. You think, gosh, that's not going to be that hard to sweep up, actually. Like a lengthy comic book, the film's story is well-nigh incomprehensible; Stan Lee could've penned this and strung it out over two whole series of any of the old Marvel Universe titles. Briefly, Fraser and Weisz are back as British husband-and-wife Egyptologist/adventurer team Rick and Evie O'Connell, this time with young son Alex (Boath) in tow. While on a dig in the Valley of the Kings they once again inadvertently unleash Powers Man Was Not Meant to Know and end up in the middle of an apocalyptic battle between old foes Im-Ho-Tep, now reunited with true love Anck-Su-Namun (played by nubile Patricia Velazquez), and the Scorpion King (The Rock). Along the way, Rick and company tangle with pygmy mummies, evil tsunamis, the Dark God Anubis, a deuce of what look to be million-men-strong armies, both living and undead, and -- ye gods, why go on? You get the picture, I think. It's all terribly, terrifically fun, and if the story occasionally (all right, often) seems to make no sense -- there are, frankly, more holes in the plot than in poor, old, falling-to-pieces Im-Ho-Tep himself -- then at least Sommers has provided us with zero time to ponder the many glaring inconsistencies. Who has time to think when the armies of the dead are nipping at your heels? Silly beyond belief, yes, but just as equally fun. More popcorn, please!