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'Mummy' Rises Again, But Not Far

By Curt Fields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 4, 2001


    'The Mummy Returns' Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo face off in "The Mummy Returns." (Keith Hamshere/Universal)
Julie Brown once sang "I like them big and stupid." She would love "The Mummy Returns."

A sequel to 1999's "The Mummy," this outing delivers more of the original release's camp-plus-action formula, with a few tweaks. While the first one spent a lot of time establishing the (supposedly) cute relationship between adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Egyptologist Evie Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) before unleashing the special effects and action scenes, "Returns" comes roaring onto the screen with a major battle sequence and a screenload of computer-generated effects in the first 10 minutes.

It seldom pauses thereafter. Like the armies of Anubis, which everyone in the movie wants to control, the fights, swordplay, chases and explosions come at you in waves. Slower scenes are sprinkled in with two main goals. First, to show what a loving and resourceful family Rick, Evie and their 8-year-old son, Alex (Freddie Boath), are, and, second, to set up the next fight scene. It's like a big-screen version of the WWF's wrestling programs, only with more expensive production values ("Returns" cost about $98 million), marginally better acting, more fighting and less blood.

Speaking of the WWF, if you're wondering how pro wrestler the Rock does as the Scorpion King, he barely speaks. (Makes you wonder about the spinoff that's now in production focusing on his character. And as one member of the audience said while leaving the theater, "Do you think he met the rest of the cast? It looks like he filmed all his scenes in a blue room" so computer effects could be added later.)

Fraser is likable enough, albeit never quite convincing as an action hero. He just doesn't look like the sort who can outrun the sun or a rushing flood. Weisz is saddled with having to play "adorably brilliant," although she's actually more convincing in her fight scenes.

The plot is standard issue. Villainous types want to raise the mummy Imhotep so that he can kill the Scorpion King and gain control of those aforementioned armies of Anubis with which they can take over the world. The precocious Alex gets kidnapped by the baddies after inadvertently clamping the Scorpion King's bracelet on his wrist. Rick and Evie set off to rescue him, and if they happen to save the world while they're at it, that's a bonus.

The dialogue is also rather basic: a few quips amid the flying fists and flashing swords, plucky impertinence from the imperiled kid, romantic comedy along the lines of an average TV show.

Other touches you've seen before (including a few characters brought back from the first film): a wimpy profit-driven sidekick who steps up in a crunch, a wacky guy with a knack for flying machines, masks that look like surplus from the sets of "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Gladiator" and a battle that'll bring back memories of "Braveheart." Oh, there also are a couple of Three Stooges-style scenes as well, including an eye poke, plus a mummy who starts out as a fierce warrior but just before encountering a low bridge suddenly seems like Homer Simpson.

We're constantly reminded that Fraser's Rick is not the subtle type. Neither is the movie. It's part comic book, part old-time serial, part video game. "The Mummy Returns" may not be the brightest entry in this season's movie lineup, but it has the good sense not to say more than it has to. Which, if you're big and stupid, is a smart move.

"The Mummy Returns" (PG-13, 125 minutes) – Contains mild profanity, virtually nonstop comic book violence and some potentially uncomfortable scenes involving snakes and scorpions.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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