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Movies
'Mummy Returns, The'

'Mummy Returns' goes wild with the action and special effects

Friday, May 04, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On May 7, 1999, "The Mummy" opened in theaters, jump-starting the summer movie season. At 6 a.m. on May 8, 1999, Universal Studios called writer-director Stephen Sommers and said, "We want another." The studio plea for "More, please" came before the first weekend grosses for "Mummy" were even in; they would total $43 million.

 
 
'The Mummy Returns'

RATING: PG-13 for adventure action and violence.

STARRING: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz

DIRECTOR: Stephen Sommers

WEB SITE: www.themummy.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

That wakeup call two years ago produced the sequel opening today, and "The Mummy Returns" is bigger, noisier, splashier, more action-packed and in your face than its predecessor. The quiet moments are few. The music from composer Alan Silvestri is nearly constant.

It's the cinematic equivalent of an overstuffed pizza -- the kind where the crust is oozing with cheese and the toppings are layered and then layered again. The movie, filmed in Morocco, Jordan and England, builds to not one, not two, but three simultaneous battles with all manner of warriors -- real and resurrected from the dead.

One combatant is half-man, half-supersize scorpion. One is a man with superhuman resolve. Another is a woman who knows her way around tridents and swords. Thousands are rabid soldiers, sort of mutant mummy canines outfitted in Egyptian battle gear. The special effects team must have been working overtime.

Sommers said he wanted to outdo himself. And that he has. Whether you like the results may depend on your age; older moviegoers might wish he would let us catch our breath and figure out where this or that person fits into the parade of villains.

The prologue, which spins the clock back to 3067 B.C., introduces us to the Scorpion King (WWF's The Rock), a villain who will make the evil high priest from the first adventure seem puny and powerless. The Scorpion King tries to conquer the world but is defeated, driven into the desert and left without a single soldier. He sells his soul to the dark god Anubis and sets the stage for his eventual return, and that of an evil army that recedes into the sand, ready to fight another day. Or millennium.

The action shifts to Egypt and 1933, when handsome legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his family are poking around some ruins. Rick is now married to Egyptologist and onetime librarian Evelyn (Rachel Weisz, glammed up and emboldened since the first movie). They have an 8-year-old son named Alex (Freddie Boath) who has his mother's brains and his father's fearlessness.

Propelled by recent dreams and visions, Evelyn discovers an ancient bracelet that sets the family on a series of nonstop, hair-raising adventures abroad, at home and then abroad again. At stake is the very safety of the world -- the return of the Scorpion King and command of the army -- and, of more immediate importance, the life of Alex.

Being an inquisitive lad, he had discovered the bracelet in a chest at his family's castle back in England and clamped it around his wrist. And there it stays when he's kidnapped after a madcap chase through London on a double-decker bus under siege by mummies.

Yes, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), from the first movie, is back from the dead. He reappears in his partially decomposed mummy state and eventually sucks the life out of enough humans to reconstitute himself -- bald head and all.

Also returning are John Hannah, as Evelyn's layabout brother; Patricia Velasquez, as Imhotep's forbidden lover; and Oded Fehr, as the darkly handsome Ardeth Bay, who is a member of the Medjai, stalwarts who defend righteous causes.

"Mummy Returns" allows Fraser to tap into his comic timing and become master of the one-liners. When a museum erupts into chaos after the mummies are brought back to life, Rick says, "You know, a couple of years ago this would have seemed really strange to me." And later, "Oh, I hate mummies."

The sequel takes many of the elements from the Saturday afternoon movies of yesteryear and folds them into this tale: A ceremony in which mummies are commanded to "Arise!" along with tales of a pyramid of gold, sand rushing through an hourglass and a chest that carries the encrypted warning, "He who disturbs this bracelet shall drink from the Nile." It throws them into a special effects hopper and sets the speed on high.

I was willing to forgive the invasion of pygmy mummies (imagine that "Ally McBeal" dancing baby gone bad and skeletal) and was on board until the end, when the computer-generated effects took over. I felt like I had been hit with the wall of water that chases the O'Connells early on. Sometimes more isn't more, even though the cast is appealing, and newcomer Boath is a real find with a promising future in films.

Word is that the Scorpion King will be spun off into a prequel. That still leaves open the door for a "Return of the Mummy Returns." How about more family time and less frantic globe-trotting? Still, there's no mistaking what "Mummy" means: The first of the summer movies has arrived.



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