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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsMovie Tuesday: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (PG-13)

Movie Tuesday: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (PG-13)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is the third installment in an apparently popular action-adventure series that follows the exploits of the O’Connell family as they battle the undead for fun and profit.
The story is the same in all three films, and it fits nicely in a nutshell: Find mummy. Wake mummy. Fight mummy. Lather and repeat. This time around it’s Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) who digs up a brutal Chinese Emperor called Han (Jet Li, in action-figure mode). Alex is the grown son of the two heroes who got together in the first Mummy picture: American professional swashbuckler Rick “Ricochet” O’Connell (Brendan Fraser, cashing in once again) and British scholar Evelyn O’Connell (American actress Mario Bello, unfortunately not fooling anyone). Rick and Evelyn are trying to relax into a normal life, but it doesn’t suit them. When shady characters use magic to rouse the emperor, the family reunites and we’re off and running.

One thing you can say for Tomb of the Dragon Emperor—it doesn’t leave anything out. In a hundred or so minutes director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx) stages every stunt imaginable; too bad each one has been imagined before. Cohen is running the Indiana Jones playbook from cover to cover. We’re treated to a dozen knife, gun, and fist fights, and we (barely) follow chases on horseback, trucks and rickshaws. Ancient booby traps kill and maim, and reliably evil foreign powers (in this case, the Chinese Red Army) seek supernatural help to achieve world domination. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the check is in the mail.
It’s true that this brand of hoopla is the stuff popcorn movies are made of. But the thrill-ride set pieces just seem to pile up like so many roller-coaster cars. The dialogue—two-thirds of it shouted at top volume—is painful at times, even by summer action-adventure standards. I couldn’t make some of it out, but I don’t think I missed anything. Some of the lines in this film make “I’ll be back” seem like “To be or not to be.”
The climactic battle pits the Emperor’s terra cotta army against a hastily awakened brigade of rotting corpses—flimsy stuff, literally and figuratively. At this stage we could certainly use a good old-fashioned kung-fu showdown between the evil warlord and the good witch (Michelle Yeoh) who cursed him millennia ago. But when it comes the final brawl is nothing to write home about. It’s edited to death and lost in the computer-generated free-for-all, the talents of two martial arts film icons utterly wasted.
The film’s violence is better catalogued than described: beatings, stabbings, shootings, beheadings, poisonings, crushings, burnings and meltings. Monsters menace and growl; abominable snowmen hurl people around like rag dolls and then (I’m not making this up) do triumphant Tiger Woods-style fist pumps.
Most of the characters swear on a PG-13 level. Adults drink and talk about drinking in a way that seems to glorify the practice. There are two or three sexually charged moments: a couple of aborted attempts at seduction between Mom and Dad O’Connell, one with Maria Bello in a slinky negligee; and a momentary view, from a respectful distance, of two lovers wrangling in their night clothes. Oh and, at one point, a yak gets airsick and vomits all over a guy. (No one should ever have to type that sentence.)
Whatever magic the Mummy franchise had is now long gone. It may be best to let Tomb of the Dragon Emperor be the final resting place of this series.

The following films were previewed at an August 2 screening: Deathrace (R); The Express (PG); Beverly Hills Chihuahua (PG); Babylon A.D. (PG-13); Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (not yet rated); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not yet rated).


By Jared Peterson

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