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   THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001) 

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CAST
Brendan Fraser
Rachel Weisz
John Hannah
Arnold Vosloo
Patricia Velasquez
Freddie Boath
Oded Fehr
Dwayne Johnson
Alun Armstrong

DIRECTED BY
Stephen Sommers

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 120 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Adventure/Romance


I wasn't really sure what to expect from this sequel. Most aren't as good as the original films and since THE MUMMY was more fluff than fiber, it's hard to imagine this would capture the same unbridled excitement of the first. However, with the same cast back a second time and original director Stephen Sommers again behind the camera, the least one could expect was another fun ride into the crazy and dangerous world of ancient Egypt. Sommers and cast do deliver an unbelievable ride filled with outrageous adventure. Unfortunately, it seems like a road we've already travelled before. Sure the basic story has changed – there's a new villain in town played by wrestling superstar The Rock – but we have the same old mean mummy to contend with, as well as the same special effects, which were amazing the first time around but added nothing new here. Though going for the adventure serial feel of the INDIANA JONES TRILOGY, Sommers relies too much on what worked in the past and on computer generated effects. Indy's foes were always human, if occasionally touched by fantasy. Here we get hordes of bugs, an unstoppable undead army and a giant half scorpion/half man creature. All well and good, but not exactly believable.

It's not that it doesn't fit with the storyline created. I just wanted to get to know these characters a little more, spend some time with them. Catch up on the last 10 years. What we get is an almost constant barrage of running, fighting and swordplay. When the film does slow down, it's to either elaborate on some ancient Egyptian myth or to have Fraser and Weisz share a loving kiss. They have great chemistry together, so I certainly didn't mind a bit of romance, but that's pretty much most of the interaction we get between these people. That and saving each other's lives repeatedly. We're supposed to infer from the fact that they have an 8-year-old son, who just happens to be blond and blue-eyed (ah, the miracle of casting), that they're a happy family of adventurous archaeologists. I wasn't thrilled to learn of the addition of the child, but he proved to be fairly intelligent and far less annoying than I imagined. I'm not asking for hours of flashbacks to illuminate their lives, just a little something to add depth and meaning to the film. Indy always had an issue he had to work through while saving the latest ancient treasure from the wrong hands. This made him more human and a more interesting character. If you thought they were cartoons in the first film, the O'Connell clan gets even flatter here. The film relies too heavily on past association.

However, that's not really the point of summer movie fare...and certainly not the basis of this movie. If it's bigger, it must be better. Not always true, especially in this instance. Where's the mystery and suspense? Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy my recent foray into the cinema desert. I love stories about pharaohs and ancient Egypt, so I'd go to see just about anything with that at it's center. Especially if it stars the yummy Mr. Fraser. In this case, Rick (Fraser) and Evie (Weisz) O'Connell and their son Alex (Boath) are in Egypt searching for a tomb from Evie's dreams that contains the bracelet of the Scorpion King, a legendary figure most people assume is merely a myth. Well, those people are wrong. They find this hunk of gold that is supposed to lead the bearer to the Oasis of Ahm Shere with a pyramid of gold at its center. Of course, they are not the only ones in search of this prize. Their old nemesis Imhotep is raised once again from the dead with the express purpose of recovering the bracelet. By doing so and defeating the Scorpion King, who is reborn once the bracelet is activated, he will take over the King's undead legions and rule the world. Yes, it's the old take over the world scheme. The catch is that Alex is wearing the bracelet and Imhotep has got him.

With the help of their old friend Adeth Bay (the sexy Oded Fehr) and Evie's degenerate brother Jonathan (Hannah), they head out across the desert to save their son and the world. Imhotep and his reincarnated lady-friend from the first film, Anck-Su-Namun (Velazquez) are pretty pissed off at Rick and Evie, trying to kill them every chance they get, which is often. We also discover that Evie's dreams are more than just her imagination run wild, but ancient memories of a past life. The O'Connells are pretty good at facing danger head-on and even a near tragedy in the final sequence of the film, does not keep this family down. Even Jonathan holds his own, which is saying something. The film ends exactly as it should, with all the evil forces back in the underworld and the O'Connells escaping over the immense desert sands by the skin of their teeth. The tone of this film isn't as dark or fun as the first, trudging along the middle of the road. Neither Imhotep nor the Scorpion King seemed all that evil or dangerous, probably because they were both so obviously fake most of the time. Though Hannah was funny and clearly brought along for comic relief, the dialogue just didn't have the spark and humor of the first film.


"You know, a couple of years ago, this would have seemed very strange to me."

Much like JURASSIC PARK: THE LOST WORLD, THE MUMMY RETURNS feels bogged down by its special effects instead of enhanced by them. The hordes of undead, the pigmy warriors (can you say velocirapter attack), etc., left me feeling nothing. The people get lost in all these CGI battles, suppressing the heart of the film. Plus there's no real bad guy. The Scorpion King is onscreen for less than 10 minutes and has so little dialogue, I wasn't really impressed by his evil nature. So what, if he sold his soul to Anubis for an unstoppable army. Get in line. At least Imhotep was a true bastard, stealing his Pharaoh's wife and literally stabbing him in the back. That gives me something to latch onto, a real person to hate. Since I was pretty sure nothing fatal was going to happen to any of our heroes, the film took on a pervasive lack of danger. Sommers does step over to the dark side for a moment near the end, which was a real surprise and gave the film a boost of pathos that caught my heart. However, it didn't last long in this world of 10-minute resurrections. If you're looking for a good way to kick open the door to summer movie fun, THE MUMMY RETURNS is a decent flick to whet your appetite. It's not as filling as the first, but for a sequel it's not half bad.



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