The Mummy

Walking corpses, flesh-eating bugs, fire from the sky and enough Saturday matinee serial close- calls make “The Mummy” such a giddy, fun-filled adventure. Not for one second do you believe any of it, but this remake of the 1932 horror film is such a good time you’re willing to give in to its big screen charms.


“The Mummy” has that distinctive old Hollywood feel, with glossy sets, colorful costumes, roguish heroes and smart heroines, and a monster that makes the old “Mummy” look like one of George Clooney’s bad “E.R.” pranks.

Some may find this style a bit insulting, but for those of us who cherish it will come away more than pleased with the effort expended. As written and directed by Stephen Sommers, whose last film was the splashy “B’ monster movie “Deep Rising,” “The Mummy” has obviously been pieced together by all that came before it. It’s one part “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” one part “Lawrence of Arabia,” one part “Ten Commandments,” and one part “Jason & The Argonauts.”

While it never reaches the heights of those films, “The Mummy” manages to entertain quite nicely on its own level. It’s a grand throwback to the original series, but thanks to some truly dazzling visual effects, the film manages to make the best of both worlds.

“The Mummy” begins with one of those tried and true prologues set 3,000 years in the past, where a high priest named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is buried alive with flesh eating bugs for fooling with the Pharaoh’s flame, whom he unsuccessfully tried to resurrect from the dead.

It’s pretty nasty stuff, but not nearly as having a red hot poker shoved up your nose until your brains dripped turned to soup. Yes, ancient Egypt had their Kenneth Starr’s as well.

Flash forward 3,000 years. The majority of the action is set in 1925, where former French Foreign Legion officer turned mercenary Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser, with a grin so wide you know he’s winking at the camera) is involved in a skirmish outside the walls of the cursed city Hamunaptra.

Left for dead in the desert, we find O’Connell in a Cairo prison three years later, where he is about to be hung for “having an extremely good time.” You had to be there. That doesn’t suit disillusioned librarian and fledgling archaeologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), who needs O’Connell to lead her to Hamunaptra, where she hopes to find an ancient book that will give her career credence.

It’s not long before we’re on a steamboat up the Nile with O’Connell, Evelyn, her earnest brother Jonathan (John Hannah), the prison warden (he’s there to protect his interest), and a group of American treasure-hunters (all generic types, no mystery here) on board.

The Americans are being led by O’Connell’s former friend Beni, played by Kevin J. Anderson with more eye shadow than Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show.” Even before the group reaches land, they are attacked by guardians of the tomb, who have kept the ancient evil under wraps all this time.

Which only means it is a matter of time before someone unlocks the spirit of Imhotep, who then proceeds to eliminate those who brought him back from the dead by sucking the very life out of them. After he becomes whole, Imhotep then sets out to resurrect his dear, dead beloved.

All he needs is a female sacrifice, so you just know that poor Evelyn is going to wind up in a deep, dark, dank sarcophagus with some evil looking bald dude standing over her with a knife as time slowly runs out.

That’s what I really liked about “The Mummy.” It respects the source material while bringing enough giddy chills and thrills of its own to the table.

Fraser does well as the wide-eyed hero who is quick with a weapon as he is with a snappy comeback. Even when he’s spouting some of Sommers’ bottom-feeder dialogue, you never sense that he’s taking any of this seriously.

Same for Weisz, who is lovely as the librarian with a flair for adventure. She looks and acts the part, and you just know when she voices her disdain for O’Connell after a stolen kiss, the two will be together before the final credits.

The remainder of the cast, especially Hannah as the errant brother, fill in the shadows nicely. Arnold Vosloo, last seen in the dreadful “Progeny,” fares much better here as the half-man, half computer generated monster who unleashes the ten deadly plagues on Egypt.

Production values are generally acceptable, with some colorful but not very realistic computer matte shots, and a generous score by Jerry Goldsmith that is adventurous and spooky. Adrian Biddle’s gorgeous cinematography (shot in Morocco, standing in for Egypt) is a major plus, as are the physical effects that literally bring down the house.

Purists might have a problem with “The Mummy,” but for those willing to give in to the film’s many delights and grand adventure, this film is a wrap.

“THE MUMMY”: GIDDY UP!

[THE MUMMY

Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Kevin J. Anderson, Jonathan Hyde, Arnold Vosloo in a film directed by Stephen Sommers. Rated PG-13. 124 Minutes.



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