The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (7/10)

The Mummy remake series has never been about anything beyond the most basest of thrills. Plot holes have abounded in both and the second was little more than a glorified version of the first. But quality or no quality, one thing they have always succeeded in giving an unpretentious, no-strings attached, special-effects driven ride. This third one resurrects the franchise with a twist, transposing the idea of the Mummy to Asia (thank God they didn’t bring back Imhotep again) and supplanting director Stephen Sommers with Rob Cohen, director of such “classics” like Stealth and xXx. Okay, sure, his resume’s not too impressive, but what he’s done with the Mummy franchise is. This one may not be as high on the quality ladder as its two predecessors, but its entertainment value is skyscraper high.

It’s been another amorphous amount of time between the last movie and this one, and apparently the time has been so amorphous that Rick O’Connell (played with his usual inimitable cheesy gusto) hasn’t aged at all while his son Alex (a stone Luke Ford) has grown about fifteen to twenty years. And it doesn’t really matter how much Alex’s mother, Evelyn O’Connell, has aged, because she’s played by a different actress this time around. Rachel Weisz turned down the script, so Maria Bello picks up the slack. She isn’t nearly as good as Weisz was in the role, whose effortless chemistry and witty banter with Fraser is part of what made the series so much fun. Bello is a great actress, but this simply isn’t the role for her.

Just like a quiet life isn’t the role for Rick and Evelyn, who spend their days attending fancy functions and writing about their experiences – in other words, they’re bored as hell. Well it’s a sure good thing for them that Alex is about to uncover an Asian mummy (Jet Li, literally without anything to do except walk around encased in clay for a good three-fourths of the movie) thousands of years old who, when unleashed, will rain down destruction (CGI goodness) upon humanity the likes of which has never been seen before!…except in the previous two Mummy films.

Originality obviously isn’t this mummy’s strong suit, but it shouldn’t really matter as long as the action and CGI are up to par enough to compensate, right? Well, I’m happy to report that they are, and this mummy features some of the best effects of the trilogy, and because our heroes are no longer restricted to desert and jungle scenes, they continent-hop all over the world and the dazzling effects keep up with them quite well, including a scene in the mountains where giant yeti battle against the soldiers of the resurrected emperor.

The relationships between the characters are also strengthened this time around – it actually reminded me a bit of the Incredibles in the way that it took some real family drama and transposed it against an epic chaotic backdrop – no, I’m not saying this film is nearly half as good as the razor sharp script that Incredibles had, but it’s at least a step up from the previous two films, where the relationships between the characters were always tertiary to the action. In this flick, they’re merely secondary, and though none of the actors, except Fraser, are particularly good, they’re at least enjoyable to watch bicker back and forth.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone, really. If you want realism in age differences, in CGI, or even in simply the storyline, you’re probably watching the wrong kind of movie. This new Mummy stays true to the spirit of its predecessors and just serves up an unadorned platter of goofy action. It may be silly, but boy, is it fun.

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