The Mummy Returns

on May 04, 2001 by Michael Tunison
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   The 3,000-year-old villain with the chewed-away faced is back, this time surrounded by enough computer-generated creatures, magic spells and action set pieces to make the 1999 hit "The Mummy" seem like a Jane Austen chamber drama. Mercifully, the fast-paced fantasy adventure "The Mummy Returns" is something of an improvement over its predecessor, though let's face it, that's not exactly comparing it to the pyramids.

   The new installment takes place nearly a decade after the events depicted in the first film, long enough for gun-slinging adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and hottie Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) to have wed and raised a precocious 8-year-old son (Freddie Boath). The largely nonsensical storyline concerns the latest resurrection of sorcery-wielding mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), whose plans to conquer the world tie in somehow to the O'Connells' discovery of an ancient bracelet and the impending rebirth of the dreaded Scorpion King (wrestling star The Rock). As if this weren't enough plot for one movie, we also learn that both Rick and Evelyn have previously unmentioned mystical destinies that help explain why they're always bumping into undead sorcerers and their enchanted evil minions.

   Having established his "Mummy" mythos in the first movie, writer-director Stephen Sommers is free to devote his full attention to dishing out action and special-effects spectacle, jumping from Indiana Jones-lifted tomb-raiding sequences to Harryhausen-style monster battles so quickly that the viewer scarcely has time to register what's being ripped off and how silly it all is. Fraser and Weisz are no more believable as adventure serial heroes than they were the first time around, though the lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone of "Mummy Returns" requires only minimal input from the actors to keep things shallowly diverting. Ultimately, it's hard to dislike a film that so stubbornly refuses to take any aspect of itself seriously, a lesson Hollywood would do well to keep in mind when churning out this type of B-movie amusement park ride. Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath and The Rock. Directed and written by Stephen Sommers. Produced by James Jacks and Sean Daniel. A Universal release. Fantasy. Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some language. Running time: 128 min

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