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It’s Alive! ‘The Mummy’ Series Reborn in China

August 8, 2008

After years of silence, the “ Mummy ” series has risen from the grave. That’s right, Rick “Ricochet” O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), along with wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, replacing Rachel Weisz) and newly grown son Alex (Luke Ford), is back for his third adventure in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

This “Mummy” is set in China 13 years after the second film, “The Mummy Returns” (2001). Young Alex has picked up his father’s tomb-raiding ways. His first major discovery, the tomb of Emperor Han and his terra-cotta army, unleashes the fury of the so-called Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) who joins with a Chinese general in an attempt to take over the world.

The only thing standing in his path is the O’Connell clan, and the mysterious immortal women guardians of Shangri-la, Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and Lin (Isabella Leong). Of course, the mandatory forbidden romance between Alex, the mortal, and Lin, the immortal, anchors the “young love” side of the plot while Rick and Evelyn try to rekindle their love in retirement.

The film is by no means a classic and even represents a step down from both “The Mummy” (1999) and “The Mummy Returns” (though it is several steps up from the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-driven “The Scorpion King”). But that didn’t bother me. Sure, the film misses Weisz as Evelyn and the steam she and Fraser had on the screen.

Bello is a serious downgrade, and at times is downright bad. The plot is a little weak and too convenient at points. But the bottom line is that this movie is not intended for those seeking a night of profundity.

If you are in the mood for undead armies, gunfights, car chases, butt-kicking and a slight infusion of kung fu, this movie is an entertaining ride armed with yetis, dragons and a battle at the base of the Great Wall.

The thing that has always salvaged the series, an unwillingness to take itself seriously, remains. Fraser continues to play the perfect cheesy hero, and John Hannah reprises his role as Evelyn’s brother and comic relief man Jonathan Carnahan.

I was apprehensive when I found out the series was moving to China and away from Imhotep’s Egypt, but in the end, the change gave a fresh angle and prevented the ghouls from slipping into redundancy. And everyone knows from the opening credits that, in the end, Fraser and Bello will kiss atop a mountain of twice-dead villains. But that is fine.

Personally, I hope they keep making sequels, because I and many others will continue to see them as long as Fraser and company continue to outwit and outgun ancient foes. Spoiler alert: If there is a fourth installment of the O’Connell path, it appears it will be set in Peru. I can’t say that I can’t wait, but I will be happy and ready for another night of mental shutdown, bloodless violence and flashing images. Stupid movies have a place in the market, especially those that aspire to be stupid but cool.

 

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