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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Movie Review: The Mummy Returns
reviewed by Jenise Aminoff

I have friends who read movie reviews and then go see the movies the reviewers hate because their tastes are so opposite. These friends probably lucked out and went to see "The Mummy Returns", despite its awful reviews. I say lucked out because I don't think the reviewers actually watched the movie. They just watched the trailer a few times, made their judgement, and wrote up the column. For example, Jay Carr of the Boston Globe review writes, "More money, more sand, more scorpions, more cavalry, more crumbling temples, more gold, more computer-generated imagery, more everything, except urgency and originality. The only suspense is not whether the intrepid Anglo interlopers will escape alive, but whether the film will, given the weight of special effects it's asked to carry." He gives the movie two stars.

Well, gee, that's about what we'd expect, right? That's certainly what I'd write if I'd only seen a few commercials. Having gone and paid the money and seen the movie, however, I'd say Carr missed a very important feature of the movie: it has a plot. In fact, it's even a fairly intricate and internally consistent plot. It is the Egyptian Year of the Scorpion, and Evelyn O'Connell (Rachel Weisz), our intrepid librarian, is led to an ancient temple by a dream. With uncanny prescience, she leads her husband Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) to the hidden treasure of the Scorpion King (The Rock), a bracelet which their son Alex promptly puts on once they return to London. A cult of egyptologists headed by the curator of the British Museum of History also wants the bracelet so that they can find the Scorpion King, defeat him, and take over his legions of Anubis's warriors. And who better to best the Scorpion King than our old friend, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), the original Mummy from the first movie.

Unable to remove the bracelet, Imhotep's cronies kidnap Alex, forcing the O'Connells to chase Imhotep and the reincarnation of his lover, Ankh-na-Suman, across Egypt to save their son and the world in general. Along the way, we learn that Evelyn, too, is a reincarnation of a historical figure (although her identity will make you groan), and that Rick's past includes a mysterious tattoo indicating a predestined role in the upcoming conflict with the Scorpion King. And all of this actually meshes with the plot of the previous movie, one glaring continuity error aside.

Now, I'm not saying this is high art. There are numerous historical inaccuracies, not least of which is a jet-powered dirigible in the 1930s, when Von Braun was still experimenting with backyard rockets, not to mention that having large flaming objects anywhere near a bag full of what's probably hydrogen gas is an amazingly bad idea. My biggest gripe, however, is that the music soundtrack is absolutely terrible. At times reminiscent of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the soundtrack is mind-bogglingly unoriginal, and forgettable. Not a great marketing point.

However, they've planted a number of sequel hooks, some obvious, like Rick's tattoo (and I do want to watch the prequel again to see if he had it then), and some very subtle, like the mysterious Book of Life that shows up for all of two seconds and then is never mentioned again. Where is it? Who has it? And what can it be used for?

Overall, I'd say Jay Carr and most other reviewers slept through a whole star's worth of rating. It's definitely worth seeing, not just for the impressive special effects, not just for Brendan Fraser's stunning blue eyes, not even for the Crouching Tiger moments of full-out female fight scenes, but also to see that rarest of gems, a decent plot in a Hollywood action flick.

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