The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (PG-13)
Brendan Fraser and not-Rachel-Weisz are back in the field and fighting the risen dead in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the unnecessary third movie in what had been a fairly decent trilogy.
No, I do not count The Scorpion King.
Adventurer Rick OíConnell (Fraser) and his nerdy but pretty wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) have left their swashbuckling days behind and are settled in a boring life in their English manor. Too boring, really; both seem bummed that all they have to ruffle their feathers is the boneheadedness of their college-age son Alex (Luke Ford, who seems like a very poor manís Brendan Fraser, who is already a very poor manís Harrison Ford). Thusly when they are asked by the British government to take a priceless, hamburger-sized stone to China, they jump at the chance.
Naturally, Alex is already in China, knee-deep in Chinese antiquities and hanging out nights at his uncle Jonathanís (John Hannah) nightclub. Just as naturally, his dig is mixed up in their jewel-mission and soon the whole family is together, raising a long-dead megalomaniacal Chinese emperor and questing for assorted mystical things with the help of the immortal Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and her immortal daughter Lin (Isabella Leong), who, despite the blessing of immortality, is cursed with bad taste in men, i.e. Alex.
Maria Bello and the Asian scenery are the only things new here. The appearance of the Himalayas is welcome as it offers a whole new snowy setting for battle scenes. Belloís presence is less charming. She serves the useful purpose of making us think Evelyn is old enough to have an Alex-aged son but she doesnít have that daffiness that made Weisz such a good heroine in this silly-fun series of B-movies.
So hereís what occurred to me halfway through this Mummy: put together the best parts of this movie and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and you have an infinitely better action movie than either of those alone. The post WWII period of Chinese civil war offers plenty of fun and sense-making opportunities for villainy (Why are the Soviets scampering around South America looking for Mesaoamerican trickets, anyway? They had nuclear weapons; it kind of makes a magical skull seem superfluous). Use theancient warrior emperor, his clay army and his magical diamond whosawhatsit instead of (SPOILER ALERT) aliens as your big mystical thing and youíve got a story that wonít be as polarizing as Crystal Skullís is. Pushed into the Indiana Jones world, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor would lose its dreadful actors (John Hannah can stay) and its woeful CGI abominable snowmen.
Hey, Indianaís movie even has a youngster to flirt with Lin!
Without the Indiana ingredients to smooth out the lumpy parts in this movie, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor isnít nearly as much mindless movie fun as its prequels. Neither the characters nor the story has the kind of goofy action adventure energy of the first two Mummy movies. Instead, both actors and plot seem to tiredly stumble through the maze of the story, desperately in search of a paycheck. C
Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence. Directed by Rob Cohen and written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is an hour and 52 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures.