A lavish third “Mummy” written for dummies
Scientifically speaking, a mummy can’t be killed, right? You can’t kill what’s already dead, right? But in Hollywood, anything is possible, and killing a mummy-at least the movie franchise kind-is a pretty simple formula: Spend about $150 million on a film and, apparently, only use about $100 of it on the screenplay.
This formula would explain a lot about “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” The film does feature some beautiful cinematography captured in exotic locations across China and the Himalayas, along with some impressively detailed set pieces. Alas, this third go-round is not a charm for the series that began in 1999. Almost everyone is gone from the original save headliner Brendan Fraser, who reprises his role as adventurer Rick O’Connell.
That wouldn’t necessarily be the death knell for this film because oriental icons Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh have been brought onboard, but the screenplay doesn’t accentuate their dignified and experienced talents, but instead undermines everyone’s good intentions with juvenile dialogue and jokes devoid of originality. It’s one thing to make a film for the pre-teen market, it’s quite another to make film that sounds like it was written by one. Sample dialogue:
Pilot: “I’d tell you to fasten your seatbelts, but I was too cheap to buy any! Ha ha ha!” (Ugh). O’Connell: “I hate mummies, they never play fair.” (Double ugh).
Stephen Sommers directed the first two films, each of which exhibited a sense of campy charm. But here he’s been replaced by Rob Cohen (“Stealth,” “The Fast and the Furious”), who knows how to keep a film moving-which “Mummy 3” does-it rarely stops for a breath. But when the action pauses, look out. Even Maria Bello (“The Jane Austen Book Club,” “Thank You For Smoking”), who replaced the looking-brilliant-for-opting-out Rachel Weisz as O’Connell’s wife, acts and sounds (thanks to a noticeably fake British accent) like a novice.
Speaking of novices, the film makes a feeble attempt to play up O’Connell’s now grown up and rebellious son (Luke Ford), who emotes zero charisma. A similar fate befalls newcomer Isabella Leong as the daughter of Zi Juan (Yeoh), whose difficulties with the English language are the stuff of which parodies are made. (Not the likely intent here.)
It’s up to Li (“The Forbidden Kingdom”), who plays the risen-from-the-dead evil Emperor, and Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), a beautiful double-crossing sorceress to offer some semblance of intelligence and stability. They succeed, especially in their minimal fighting sequences. Otherwise, the film relies on a vomiting Yak and some goal-kicking Yetis for its lowbrow humor.
Despite its nearly non-stop action, this “Mummy” feels painfully long.
Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence.