The Mummy (1999)

27 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Mummy” is a special-effects action movie that is not by any means a great piece of work, hardly anywhere in the same league as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It’s trash, yes, but it is good trash that entertained me from start to finish. I had a good time with this silly action flick.

Actually, beneath the action/adventure elements, there is a great deal of comedy—so much that you have to wonder if the filmmakers were intending on creating a parody of these action-adventure stories. To take “The Mummy” seriously would be as ridiculous as anything the story has to offer. As a thriller, it doesn’t work. As a campy, special-effects filled, funny action movie, “The Mummy” does work. I wasn’t bored in the two hours of the film’s running time. I was very entertained.

The film begins with a flashback to (“insert year here”) BC with heavy-handed narration from a very deep voice within scenes that explain the back story to us. We all love it when that happens, don’t we? We also love it when the narrator informs us that a mummy will rise.

Then we flash forward to many centuries later to the early 1920s in Cairo. A clumsy British librarian named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her immature, pickpocketing brother Jonathan (John Hannah) have found a map that leads to the lost city of Hamunaptra in Egypt, also known as “The Land of the Dead” (whoa, not a good sign). Joined by American adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), they decide to take a trip down there to retrieve a lost treasure within its tombs. But also racing to retrieve the treasure is a band of American fortune hunters, led by a nervous traitor named Beny (annoyingly played by Kevin J. O’Connor with a less-than-convincing Arabic accent). Threatening to kill both teams to protect the treasure is a band of black-robed horsemen.

While down there, Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan come across an ancient sarcophagus and a book known as the “Book of the Dead.” (Uh-oh.) And wouldn’t you know it? They open the book, unleashing the ten plagues of Egypt, although I only counted less than 10 that actually happen in this movie—I’ve seen fireballs, locusts, blood flowing in rivers, earthquakes, and flies. There are also many, many flesh-eating beetles, although I’m unsure if they’re part of the plagues or if they just live in the caves. Also unleashed from the grave is the mummy Prince Imhotep, which starts out as a disgusting skeleton, but can reproduce organs just by taking them from the rival American team. Once he is complete, he will raise his dead girlfriend and rule the world. Of course Evelyn is captured by the mummy, which causes Rick to set out and “save the girlfriend, kill the bad guy, and save the world.”

All of this is good dumb fun. As I mentioned above, there is also a great deal of comedy within the action/adventure stuff. One of the best moments is at the beginning, in which we get a glimpse of Evelyn’s clumsiness—she accidentally knocks over a bookshelf and the rest of the shelves come crashing down, much like the domino effect. Another funny bit is when she hears a strange noise in the museum: “Abdul? Mohammed? Bob?” There are many other funny moments like those; I won’t give away all of them. There is also a heavy amount of action that didn’t bore me, mainly because we have a likable hero in this series of battles with mummies, most of which are comical. Brendan Fraser plays Rick as a low-rent Indiana Jones and he has fun with the character and performance. Also fun to watch is Rachel Weisz as his could-be girlfriend—she projects a great deal of comedic timing.

The special effects work very well. That really does look like a decomposing mummy threatening to kill the main characters and conquer the world. But a flaw in “The Mummy” is that it seems like a half-hour too long. “Men in Black,” which also featured special effects and a comic undertone, featured the best it could with a half-hour too short of running time. But “The Mummy” maybe needed less of a good time. But even during tidbits of the final climax, such as when Jonathan is stumbling trying to help “save the day,” I wasn’t bored. To sum it up, I was entertained by “The Mummy,” even when the dumbness took over the thriller aspects. It’s a fun ride that I do not regret taking.

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