August 1, 2008

A Lack of Danger Curses Latest Mummy

By Mal Vincent, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Aug. 1--Show me the Mummy!

It seems a reasonable request. Yet, amid the outrageous excess that characterizes the modern sequel, we get more mumbo jumbo than mummy here.

Visually, this third edition has all that computers and huge Chinese sets can produce. Lots to see, but none of it is even remotely involving or dangerous. We need danger.

And, while you're at it, give us back Rachel Weisz, the fetching, feisty British rose who proved to be a perfect foil for hulking Brendan Fraser, the Indiana Jones wannabe, in the first two "Mummy" films.

Weisz, a 37-year-old Oscar winner, reportedly balked at the idea of playing the mother of an actor as old as Luke Ford, 27, and, rather than rewrite the script, the producers told her to get lost. Maria Bello, 41, the replacement, is a good actress but is so tough that she doesn't provide the contrast with Fraser that Weisz did.

As for Luke Ford, he looks more like Fraser's brother than his son. Fraser is just 39, so his having a college-age son is a bit of a stretch.

But then so is "Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which forsakes Egypt for China just in time for the Olympics.

Here's the setup: Jet Li covets Michelle Yeogh, but she secretly puts a curse on him. He murders her true love, General Ming, but Li and all his army are turned into mummies. Only the Eye of Shanghai, the diamond that is an archaeologist's best friend, can clear the way to the elixir of the pool of immortality, which is an excuse for the cast to go globetrotting until time is up and the mummy army comes to life. Are we scared? Hardly.

The action scenes are great, particularly a chase through Shanghai that involves fireworks and bazookas. The one-liners are feeble, though.

Reportedly, this was the most expensive Western movie ever allowed to shoot in China.

It was a wise move to bring in Rob Cohen as the new director, because he is one of the most talented directors of action. Here, his action sequences are both well choreographed and edited.

This, the silliest installment of the 9-year-old franchise, is aimed more at young children, perhaps, than the others. Still, it's expected to take in more than $50 million this weekend. If it does, it will prove that this mummy ain't dead yet.

Mal Vincent, (757) 446-2347, [email protected]


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