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Third Time Loses Charm With ‘Tomb of Dragon Emperor’: New ‘Mummy’ Thrills but Seems a Little Unwrapped.

August 1, 2008

By Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Aug. 1–The third offering in the “Mummy” series, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” is the kind of fast-moving, mummy-butt-kicking action that is so much fun to watch in the summer. It’s light entertainment. It just could have been better.

The action takes place in 1946. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife, Evelyn, have settled into a life of stuffy retirement. The role of Rick’s spunky better half has been taken over by Maria Bello. The actress does a passable job. But there never seems to be the same chemistry that Fraser and Rachel Weisz had. It is like meeting someone’s second wife after you had become great friends with the first.

It is their son, Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) who puts this movie in motion. He uncovers the tomb of an evil Chinese emperor (Jet Li). In “Mummy” fashion, the remains of the tyrant come to life and begin a plan for world domination — just the kind of thing to pull the O’Connells out of retirement.

The O’Connells get help in their quest from Rick’s brother-in-law (John Hannah), a couple of ancient women (Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong) and an army of the undead. This is a case of having so many characters that the film seems to wander away from its main selling point, Fraser. It is his rugged good looks and dry sense of humor that makes the character a poor man’s version of Indiana Jones.

Another problem is that there is just something too familiar about the action sequences. Director Rob Cohen seems to have dusted off bits and pieces of past action movies such as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,”"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,”"Army of Darkness” and a half dozen martial-arts films to try to entertain the viewer.

Familiar doesn’t mean bad. A high-energy script fueled by the ever-so-likeable Fraser makes this movie a blast even if moviegoers have seen a lot of this stuff before.

Cohen’s direction is hit and miss. He misses an opportunity with an early chase scene. An overzealous editing style and frantic hand-held camera work distracts more than emphasizes the excitement of the scene.

He does a better job with a fight scene high in the Himalayas that includes a trio of Yeti. It is really the high point of the movie. The final battle stalls because it features computer-generated characters that look more like video-game escapees than combatants in a major motion picture.

All of this goes to make “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” feel like an extremely dead-on copy of a real treasure. It looks good. It is just hard to kick the feeling something is just not completely right.

The reporter can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355.

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