Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
A Humdrum 'Mummy'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 1999

  Movie Critic

The Mummy
Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser recoil in horror of "The Mummy." (Universal)

Stephen Sommers
Brendan Fraser;
Rachel Weisz;
John Hannah;
Arnold Vosloo;
Stephen Dunham
Running Time:
2 hours, 5 minutes
Contains violence and comedy that should be considered armed and dangerous
If no earsplitting shriek, scream or explosion is too loud for you, if forced comedy tickles you every time, if no stale romance can sully your palate, and if you have never in your life seen a bandaged mummy emerge from a crypt in a movie, I'm thinking you're ready for "The Mummy."

A failure in more ways than a mortal would have time to explain, this overblown parody of desert epics and mummy horror films, starring Brendan Fraser, stumbles and screeches on for an interminable two hours. When the special effects finally come, they're too late and frankly, not as great as the trailer would lead you to expect.

The movie, written and directed by Stephen ("Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book'") Sommers, begins with a prologue in ancient Thebes, in the way, way B.C. years. Scheming high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) suffers a horrible death for offending the gods by killing the Pharaoh and having an affair with his mistress. Imhotep is gutted, bandaged and shoved in a coffin full of flesh-chomping bugs – and that's before they know about his involvement in this movie.

The story jumps to the 1920s, where dashing legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Fraser), his slimy companion Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor) and his fellow cloth-heads are battling a sect of guards at the site of Humunaptra (aka City of the Dead, or Underground Vault of Bandaged Stiffs, Lurking Menace and Mucho Treasure).

This is the same place where the undead Imhotep lies in his coffin, just waiting for a bunch of greedy fools to read from the Black Book of Something or Other, so he can rise again and unleash 10 plagues upon Egypt.

Rick and his compadres are repelled by the guardians – themselves descended protectors of the Pharaoh's treasures and that really scary curse. But Rick and Beni remember the site.

Three years later, Rick gets his chance to return when a British scholar and librarian named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her effete, annoying brother Jonathan (John Hannah) save him from a hanging and enlist his help to find the City of the Dead. They have a special key to the book. They can open that book. And those special effects can finally come.

The party sets off. So does a rival contingent of Americans, whose intentions – of course – are more profit-oriented. This section drags on and on, setting up a jousty romance between Rick and Evelyn and introducing us to the most innocuous, stereotypical collection of conniving locals, eccentric oddballs and greedy bounty hunters ever assembled. Fraser, an incredibly likable performer, valiantly attempts to maintain an air of lighthearted matinee heroism. But in the context of this movie, he's just wasting his energy.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" this ain't.

As they infiltrate the tomb, an artificial plague of special effects rains down on them – as if attempting to distract the audience from sheer boredom. Locusts and skin-penetrating scarabs swarm in angry masses. Giant sand-cloud apparitions emerge furiously from the desert floor. Hordes of silent, deadly mummies advance with vengeful intent from dusty vaults. But at this point, nothing matters, no matter how loud. Your brain has already become mummified.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar