FILM REVIEW HH1 2
The Son of Mummy 2: Part Deux
‘The Mummy Returns’ Sinks Miserably with More Glitz, Same Plot, & Fewer Laughs
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers
With Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Patricia Velazquez, Oded Fehr, Freddie Boath
The key word for The Mummy (the 1998 adventure, not the 1932 horror film it was not really based on) was “fun.” For a movie that did not take anything (including itself) seriously, that the story was an overlong mess did not matter in the least; the combination of eye candy and supremely self-deprecating attitude combined into one of the most effective escapist movies of the recent years.
The key word for The Mummy Returns is, seemingly, “size.” Most of the ingredients of the first film duly (in a few cases, dully) return -- only bigger. The plot (a sequence of unnecessarily slowly-moving plot devices involving overly elaborate and exotic deaths) is back; writer/director Stephen Sommers is back; and so is every survivor of the first movie (along with some who didn’t even survive: Patricia Velazquez’s character, in particular, manages to perish three times in two movies). Back is the same Indiana Jones-lite style, semi-effective scares and jolts, impressively mounted action, and digital special effects. A lot of special effects. The Phantom Menace amount of special effects, as a matter of fact. So many of them that everything else seems to be taking a back seat; certainly the movie drags in just about every shot which did not get worked on by Industrial Light and Magic.
As the result, a lot of humor is gone; only Brendan Fraser continues to display his flawless comic timing. John Hannah is also funny, but here he tags along more in the capacity of a comic relief guy, as opposed to a real human being. The character that was played by Rachel Weisz in The Mummy here is clearly played by Ms. Weisz’s evil twin: gone is the hilariously stylized portrayal of a befuddled librarian, and what we get instead is a lot of monotonous consternation and brow-knitting. Screenplay is to bear the brunt of blame, since she spends half of her screen time worrying about her son. To be fair, she anchors not one, not two, but three nifty fight sequences, the middle of them (an ornate flashback) really quite spectacular. It’s still not a great thing to trade off one great character for three great scenes.
In any case, first hour and a half amble along with no more than a modicum of wit to go around, mostly repeating the set-pieces from the first movie with slight elaborations. The screenplay is cobbled together by stringing action sequences with plot devices -- and the seams show, even when the action is decent. Some of set-pieces are quite good, like the one set on the double-decker bus; some are dumb and borderline racist, like an attack of an array of pygmies (pygmy mummies? mummy pygmies?).
The last half an hour is great. Here is where the size truly matters, with Sommers deftly intercutting something like four separate battles, one of which is absolutely daunting in scale and integration of multiple human warriors and hundreds of computer-generated beasts. The appearance of the real villain of the film (the mummy itself is more of an anti-hero this time around) is also an eye-full.
Ultimately, the difference in enjoyment is due to the one major difference between the first Mummy and this one: the first one was a enjoyable summer movie, while this one is merely an enjoyable summer movie sequel.