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Review written by: Alex Sandell

What's the story? (don't worry, I don't "spoil" the movie here.  I only write about the events taking place in the first 5-10 minutes of the film):

The film begins with The Rock, fresh from his gig at the Republican convention, playing some guy leading an army in a battle lifted from last year's Gladiator.  The guy ends up losing, and decides to trade his soul in exchange for victory.  He then eats a scorpion.  This is probably to let us know that we are looking at the future "Scorpion King."  

After The Rock's overacting, we cut to the swashbuckling hero of the 1999 Mummy movie, Indiana Jones (Brendan Frasier), or whatever his name is, in some pyramid with scary music playing.  He is there with Eveyln (Rachel Weisz), the mega-pretty girl he met in 1999's The Mummy; the two are now married and even have an eight-year-old son, Alex (Freddie Boath).  The threesome are digging around at "Evie's" request, due to dreams that she has been having that apparently summoned her to the area.  Indiana Jones, being the responsible father he is, sends his son off to poke around by himself in dangerous pyramids, and the boy quickly stumbles upon danger!

Alex (damn good choice in names) climbs up a ladder to some really high, risky for a kid to be on, platform.  As Alex explores the platform, three thugs enter the pyramid, looking for the book of the dead, lost in the first film, and Alex gets a bird's eye view of the action.  It's obvious that the kid has picked up strong character traits from both of his parents when he belts a couple of the thugs with rocks slung from a slingshot, as his father would do, and then proceeds to knock down a bunch of statues, as if they were dominoes, just like his mother did with a bunch of bookshelves in the 1999 Mummy!

In the meantime, Evie and Indiana Jones are trying to open a door.  Evie has a weird vision of that hot naked chick with fishnet body makeup from the 1999 Mummy and, in her vision, learns how the door is opened.  The couple opens the door and finds a small room hidden behind it.  Inside the room, Evie and Indy find a foreboding gold scorpion bracelet.  When they carelessly pick it up, the walls start to crumble, ala Raiders of the Lost Ark, and they are warned that they will "drink from the Nile."  Suddenly water starts chasing them, and they try to outrun it, sort of like Indy did with the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Unfortunately, they aren't fast enough to outrun water, and they end up over their heads, and trapped behind bars, like that one scene from Titanic.  Just when the two are about to die, a wall smashes open, freeing them.  How did this last-minute miracle occur?  One of the pillars/statues their son knocked over smashed open the wall in just the right place, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, during the snake-pit scene!  

The three return to their lavish England home where Evie and Indy make out as Alex decides to snap the scorpion bracelet onto his wrist.  When he does, he sees a big, three-dimensional Computer Generated Image (CGI) map in front of him.  As Alex begins flying through one 3-D map after another, his parents discover, after making a few suggestive comments to one another, that the female undergarments hanging from a hook in the hallway are not Evie's!  It must be Evie's comedy relief sidekick brother, Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) bringing another woman into the house.  That stinker!  

We cut to Jonathan, who is, indeed, with a woman, and actually has the nerve to tell her that it's his house that they're in, and that he is wealthy, just to get her in bed.  The woman has pretty nice knockers.  I think about becoming aroused, but am interrupted when Anck-Su-Namun, temporarily known as "Meela" (Patricia Velazquez, the hot naked chick with fishnet body makeup from the first Mummy), and her crew come in and scare the hell out of Jonathan, in an attempt to get the golden Scorpion bracelet.  

It appears the nasty bad guys want the bracelet because it will guide them to the hidden temple of the Scorpion King, and they plan on waking up Anck-Su-Namun's ex-boyfriend, Im-Ho-Tep (Arnold Vosloo), the Mummy from 1999's, The Mummy, to fight, and defeat, the Scorpion King, thereby gaining control of the King's all-powerful army of the dead.  Sucks for the Big Bad's that Alex already has the bracelet on, and that in seven days, the Scorpion King, and his army, will live again.  

Will the bad guys get Alex (this isn't the first time in my life that I've found myself asking this)?  Will his parents be able to get him back?  Will The Rock learn how to act?  Only time, and the price of admission, will tell!

So, how is it? (Get to the point, already.)

With the Mummy, and even more so, The Mummy Returns, we have finally entered the second round of cinematic rip-offs.  You read that right: the original rip-offs (is that an oxymoron?) are now being ripped-off.  In the eighties we had the Indiana Jones' movies stealing from every serial cliffhanger ever imagined, along with Gunga Din, and the Allan Quatermain series.  In the nineties we had the Jurassic Park movies stealing from all of the "gigantic lizards and big monkey" films of the early to mid-1900's.  Now, in the year 2001, we have The Mummy Returns "borrowing" heavily from the "borrowers," as did The Mummy before it, and creating its own little niche in the blockbuster adventure world, by doing so.  All this, and it's a sequel to a film that was already a remake!  Essentially, we're looking at a sequel to a rip-off of countless rip-offs, that is busy remaking sequences, and bringing back characters, which were already remakes of, and characters in, the 1932 original starring Boris Karloff in the title role.   

Unlike the 1999 remake, The Mummy Returns isn't content with only stealing-from/paying-homage-to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park.  This time, we've got a gulp of Gladiator, an ante of Aliens, a bit of Buffy, a tad of Titanic, a cup of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, an englut (hey, you think of a good "e" word) of E.T, a speck of Stargate, and a dash of Dr. Strangelove:  Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  The nods to Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park are more frequent and pronounced than they were the last time, and, if you stare really hard, Brendan Fraiser occasionally turns into Harrison Ford.  There are so many winks at other films, that I kept waiting for the mummy, who spends a good part of the movie on a train, to offer one of his victims a plate full of fried green tomatoes, before he sucks them to death.  It's always good for the little rugrats to eat something before receiving the touch of evil from this stranger on a train. 

It seems as though writer/director (and native Minnesotan - we come up with all the good ideas that were already done, here) Stephen Sommers discovered the "cut-and-paste" feature on the computer in his mind and was possessed by it.  Still, Sommers is obviously a man of taste, who will only "cut" from the best, and what he has pasted together in The Mummy Returns is sort of like a nostalgic "greatest hits" film.  Surprisingly, it works.  

It works in the way that one of those KISS tribute bands work for KISS fans (yes, believe it or not, KISS actually has fans).  The real thing has apparently given up, so you've got to settle for the next best thing, because the next best thing is better than no thing at all.  Since Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have apparently decided to move away from making good movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, and are instead focusing their energies on crap like Saving Private Ryan and The Phantom Menace, fans are left looking for a fix, and Stephen Sommers has finally provided it, warts (and there's a big one on Brendan Fraiser's nose) and all.  

The Mummy Returns works in nearly every way, even in the ways you never thought that it would work.  When I first saw that there was going to be a little kid sidekick, I nearly left the theater with strings of butter-flavored vomit hanging from my mouth.  To my surprise, Freddie Boath, as Alex O'Connel, was no Anakin Skywalker or "Shorty".  Alex, the character, comes off convincingly as an actual kid, not Hollywood's idea of what a kid actually is.  In this way, The Mummy Returns manages to one-up the largely superior films that inspired it, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, by giving us a kid that's just a kid, rather than a walking one-liner with a high-pitched voice and no pubic-hair.  

Another thing that shines in the film is the relationship between Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz's characters.  The fact that a swashbuckling adventure pic such as this even had the leading actress from its predecessor reprise her role is amazing, in and of itself.  The fact that it had her playing a mother and a wife, and gave her an even larger, more important part, is nearly a miracle, and absolutely unheard of.  

The biggest mistake the Indiana Jones' sequels made was getting rid of Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  She was a strong leading lady that held her own against Indy, and the chemistry between the two was never matched when Lucas and Spielberg threw lesser actresses into the leading roles in the subsequent films.  It's obvious that Sommers' learned from Spielberg's mistakes, and wrote in a more confident, mature Evelyn Carnahan, instead of writing out the character altogether.  It was a gutsy, atypical move that lent a smidgeon of uniqueness to a rather typical movie.

"Typical," in this case, is far from "bad."  The Mummy Returns is one of the few sequels that is better than the original.  It's far better than it deserves to be (whatever that means), and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, unless you're either A.) paralyzed from the neck up, or B.) a professional film critic looking to score points with the elite crowd by sounding pretentious. Most of the cast from the first one is back, so, if you had fun watching them last time, you should get that  satisfied sort of, "the gang's all here" feel from the picture.  The fact that all your favorite characters are thrown into even bigger and better action sequences than they were the last time around certainly doesn't hurt, either.

The Mummy Returns enveloped me from beginning to almost the end in that magic sort of Spielberg-esque way.  Sommers isn't the director Spielberg was, during his glory days, and consequently the movie gets a little slow in the middle, the final battle scenes go on too long and needed some editing (sort of like this review), and just when you think The Rock can't get any worse, he gets CGI.  Still, it's been a good couple of years since I recommended a big FX movie like this as enthusiastically as I am recommending The Mummy Returns.  So, get to a theater, buy a tub of popcorn, sit back, and let yourself be reminded of the good ol' days . . . the days when filmmakers truly knew how to rip off a quality film!

What does it make you feel like eating?

Well, it is a "popcorn" film; so, I guess I'd probably go with prime rib.

What are you selling us here???

I don't think there's a single product-placement in this film, other than the soundtrack.

If it won an Oscar, what would it be?

"Best Indiana Jones rip-off yet" - The Mummy Returns

On a scale of 1-10?

8

Agree? Disagree? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com

Like movies?   LOVE THEM?  Want the inside-scoop, cranky criticism and Juicy movie news, before the rest of the world?  Sign up for the daily More On Movies Newsletter by simply sending an email to alex@juicycerebellum.com saying "Midgets Love Movies!"  Remember, the last word on film, is Juicy!   

Text (Copyright) 2001 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. If you copy this, without my permission, I'll cut out your tongue and mummify you alive!

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