The new “Mummy” reboot, which opens Friday, is getting pilloried by critics — and that’s delightful news for one group of movie fans.
“Tom Cruise’s Mummy is a flop,” reads the top post on the Brendan Fraser-devoted subreddit. (Yes, such a thing exists.) “Join me in boycotting this. Send a message to the studios! #BetterWithBrendan.”
On Twitter, the sentiments went something like this:
Fraser’s fans are reveling in schadenfreude because the new version has gotten a paltry 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The enthusiasts are hoping that’ll teach Universal not to mess with Fraser’s most well-known role, Rick O’Connell, in 1999’s “The Mummy” and its sequels.
People have worked themselves into a tizzy over remakes before. Who could forget the brouhaha over last year’s “Ghostbusters” reboot? But it’s notable that people seem to care so much about Fraser, especially considering how little he’s done in the past decade.
This isn’t the first time the actor’s devotees have rallied around him. Last year, after an interview with AOL about his role on the third season of Showtime’s “The Affair,” viewers grew concerned. The actor seemed gloomy and wan; he spoke slowly and softly while gazing at the ground, his stream of consciousness responses meandering far, far away from the questions posed to him.
“I came of age in the industry working in feature films, primarily,” he said at the start of the interview — was that an air of wistfulness? “Oh, this is how this works,” he said, looking at the microphone in his hand, “Hi, kids. Maybe one day I’ll have a future in broadcasting, too.” Then he indicated he might address “the elephant in the room”: that he hadn’t shown up once in “The Affair” trailer the studio audience had just watched. But then he didn’t really address it at all; he switched gears to sing the praises of the showrunner and cast.
Questions and concern were only natural: Was his voice breaking as he talked about the state of the movie industry? His eyes weren’t glistening, were they? What happened to the goofball who once played a cave man and George of the Jungle?
The appearance launched both a “Sad Brendan” meme (which wasn’t his first time as a meme) and a bizarre Change.org petition, titled “bring Brendan Fraser back into film/television.” More than 46,000 people signed.
Recent years haven’t been entirely encouraging for the 48-year-old actor. His marriage of nine years broke up and, in 2013, tabloids caught wind of a court battle with his ex-wife over alimony and child support the actor claimed he could no longer pay. By then the acting gigs weren’t as plentiful, nor were they as high profile.
It felt like ages since his early days in Hollywood, when he broke into acting with remarkable ease. In 1992, he starred in both “School Ties” and “Encino Man,” which seemed to seal his fate. He proved he could handle drama, holding his own opposite up-and-comers Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris O’Donnell, but also comedy, playing a cave man alongside Pauly Shore and Sean Astin. He was a frequent presence on the big screen during the years that followed. Most of the movies weren’t beloved by critics, but that didn’t stop films like “Airheads” and “Now and Then” from gaining cult status.
The end of that decade was huge for Fraser. First, he got serious acting cred with “Gods and Monsters” in 1998, which went on to win an Oscar; then he went broad when “The Mummy” hit theaters in 1999. The movie was a massive surprise hit, making $155 million domestically (the equivalent of $270 million today), and turning Fraser’s sardonic, perfectly stubbled character into a campier Indiana Jones.
Fraser has had a few hits since then, including the even more popular “The Mummy Returns,” and “Crash” (though that movie hasn’t aged well). But he’s also had a lot of misses. Remember 2013’s “Pawn Shop Chronicles”? Probably not, considering it made about $8,000. He also turned talking animal movies into his specialty — a questionable decision because “Furry Vengeance,” “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” and “Monkeybone” all tanked at the box office.
Fraser had one promising shot at becoming the star of another franchise after 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” took off, but, as Deadline reported at the time, the actor would only make the sequel with the original movie’s director, Eric Brevig, who was tied up working on another film. No matter, Fraser was replaced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the sequel went on to make more than $300 million worldwide.
And yet, Fraser’s luck may be turning. His fans have more to be happy about than a badly received “Mummy” reboot. Last week, Variety broke the story that the actor was cast in a very promising FX series, “Trust,” from the Oscar-winning team of director Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”). The actor joins Donald Sutherland and Hilary Swank in a series about the real-life kidnapping of oil heir John Paul Getty III. This is a good time to get in on a prestige drama considering how A-list movie stars have been flooding the television landscape. Plus, FX is churning out some of the most exciting series on cable or streaming.
Fraser couldn’t have done it without his fans — at least that’s what they think. There’s an update on the Change.org petition since the “Trust” casting news broke. “Today I have come to inform you that OUR mission to get Brendan back on mainstream television was a success,” the note reads, before concluding, “have a good Brendaissance and God bless.”