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The Mummy

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Mummy

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz
Director: Stephen Sommers
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: May 1999
Genres: Horror, Action

*Also starring: John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor, Tuc Watkins, Aharon Ipale, Bernard Fox, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

If tourism to Egypt drops off during the next month or so, don't blame the Egyptian Tourist Board. As Dan Quayle might say, blame this on the movies, specifically on one that makes the North African state appear to be a dull place indeed. "The Mummy" is the culprit this time: a pot pourri of special effects that forgot about dialogue, acting and even set design. Brendan Fraser does OK in the role of a self-deprecatory Yankee Zorro who falls for a pyramid scheme. He's a muscular enough guy as we noted in his role as Adam in "Blast from the Past" and has a resonant voice, proficient in commanding the folks trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the object of his affection, Rachel Weisz was more the three-dimensional human being as the shy but caring Amy Foster in "Swept From the Sea," but looks darn good here as a flapper-librarian as adept at knocking over bookshelves as she is at thumping Fraser's heart strings. But just as technology does not always do things better than human beings, this "Mummy" does not match the gauzy characters played by the likes of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee in sound movies as far back as 1932.

Though modern-day Hamitic people have shifted their loyalties to more peaceful leaders like Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarek, the vindictive slaveowners three millennia back were anything but forgiving. Because of their malevolence, the title character of writer-director Stephen Sommers's yarn has good reason to be irked. For playing around with Pharaoh's daughter, his judges did not waste time on impeachment proceedings but rather sentenced him to a death so horrific that the penalty had not before been tried. Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) was buried alive, his only companions a horde of heckling bugs which, not being exceptionally hungry at the time, dined leisurely on the miscreant to afford him--and the pests--more time to think of the pleasures of the flesh. Needless to say the area of desert that served as his shrine is called "evil ground," so that everyone is advised to picnic elsewhere where the bugs are not so ravenous. Let sleeping studs lie.

You'd think that mummies would be happy about being awakened, cooped up as they've been for some millennia. But no, these ungrateful poster boys for Johnson and Johnson are perpetually angry. Hostility is a tradition with them, since 1932 , when Boris Karloff was revived after thousands of years in an incarnation that was chills ahead of its follow-ups, including the "The Mummy's Hand" made eight years later; the 1944 "Mummy's Curse," the "Mummy's Ghost" of that same year, the 1959 British "Mummy," and the 1967 bomb "The Mummy's Shroud." This time around, the fable has been deconstructed. No bandages: the little creatures took care of them, so that all that's left of Imhotep since he nodded off in 1290 B.C. is a guy who looks like the product of a seriously botched rhinoplasty.

When Sommers jumps to 1923, he focuses on the hulky Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) who has just been promoted to commanding officer of his French Foreign Legion troupe. He fights off a band of evil-looking men, giving orders in perfect English, somehow hooks up with a comely, hieroglyphics-endowed librarian, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her nerdy brother Jonathan (John Hannah), and goes off to find a lost city with its buried treasure. They wake up the creature who, after three thousands years does not even take time to go to the bathroom but who instead enlists the help of some American tourists and Arabs to supply him with the vital organs he needs (presumably to go to the bathroom).

The only way to play yet another "mummy" is to take the show to camp, but Sommers's script failed to capture much more than a smile from the huge all-media audience at a recent New York screening. The sallies are on the level of what we hear during the early part of the story, when the Legion captain runs in fear from the galloping enemy and Rick O'Connell's right-hand man tells Rick "You've just been promoted." The bugs that spring to life are generic horror creatures that predictably crawl up their victims' bodies from feet to neck and the mummy--who at first looks like a decent drawing in Gray's Anatomy--comes off just a bit scarier when he acquires his organs and looks like a human being.

If only this title character did not talk so much, we could have been in for some fun. In a scene near the movie's conclusion, he has the lovely Evelyn tethered to a board, about to sacrifice her so that he can fully revive the princess he's pined for these three thousand years. Lifting a knife ever so slowly, he says to no one in particular that when he has plunged the dagger into Evelyn's ample bosom he will be invincible. This would not be the first time that announcing plans gives the hero the time he needs to foil the villain's strategy and to lead to the usual, predictable resolution.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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