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May 11, 2001

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Review The

Amar Parikh

So you thought the world was safe? Think again.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in The Mummy Returns The marauding hordes from the world of the undead are back in The Mummy Returns.

Right from the epic battle scene in the prologue, writer-director Stephen Sommers clearly telegraphs his intent -- he is going to up the ante.

Everything is supersized, from the action scenes and the rogues' gallery of evil to, of course, the special effects -- all for the pleasure of popcorn-munchers worldwide.

In this follow-up to 1999ís surprise hit The Mummy, we meet Rick OíConnell and Evelyn again. They are now married Londoners with a spunky seven-year old son, Alex (Freddie Boath), who has inherited his motherís penchant for prodding long-dormant Egyptian artifacts.

Doing that, as any one who has seen the first instalment knows, unleashes malevolent forces upon the world and grounds dozens of special effects wizards in their digital studios for weeks.

But thatís what we are paying our hard-earned money to watch. And the kid readily obliges.

From then on, the OíConnells hurtle straight into a dizzying intercontinental adventure. They have to deal with the return of the resurrected baddie Imothep (Arnold Vosloo), who is determined to reunite with his centuries-old love Anck-Su-Numan (a vampish Patricia Valasquez).

They also have to contend with the bigger threat of ancient warrior, The Scorpion King (WWFís The Rock) and his vicious band of pygmy-sized creatures.

A still from The Mummy Returns Armed with a $100 million budget, Sommers throws everything but the mummyís tomb on the screen.

You'll find all the trusted elements of an action-adventure flick: the race against time, the impending peril at every corner and the nick-of-time help from unexpected quarters.

Sommers, the writer, dreams up a tale based on the mythical lore of Egypt. But Sommers, the director, is in a tearing hurry, more taken up with effects than with telling a story.

Welcome, then, to Mummies for Dummies where almost every moment is infused with a frantic sense of urgency. The characters have barely any time to breathe let alone interact with each other.

The obligatory smart alec quips amidst the frenetic action are provided by the precocious Alex and Evelynís weasly brother, Jonathan (John Hannah).

The pleasantly bland and plucky Brendan Fraser realises there isnít much scope for acting here. He focuses his energies on keeping his family from harmís way.

Not to be left behind, the striking Rachel Weisz, too, sees this as an opportunity for physical histrionics and flexes her martial arts prowess, including a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style combat with her nemesis from a previous birth, Anck-Su-Namun.

The Rock is onscreen for maybe ten minutes, but gets equal billing in the promos. False advertising, perhaps, but a testament to his tremendous popularity with millions of kids around the world.

A still from The Mummy Returns Look out for the mysterious Arab warrior and friend of the OíConnellsí, Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr), who looks like a younger version of Amitabh Bachchan from Khuda Gawah.

The film aims for the jauntiness of the Indiana Jones series, but falls short.

The biggest culprit here have to be the special effects. The whole point of multimillion dollar digital effects is to make things look real, not fake.

Witness The Matrix, which brilliantly juxtaposed leaping Hong Kong martial arts with cutting edge technology.

But apart from the terrifying half-decomposed face of Imothep and the velociraptor-type creatures of The Scorpion Kingís army, the effects here are too heavily digitised and unlife-like to be believable.

Iíd go on, but whoíd listen? Certainly not the entertainment-starved American public who plunked down a head-spinning $ 70 million last weekend, giving this sequel the best opening ever in film history.

There are 70 million reasons why mummies will invade theatres again. But Iím not waiting for them.

All you get here is manufactured action -- loud, raucous, relentless.

A still from The Mummy Returns That, ultimately, is more exhausting than exhilarating.

Official website

CREDITS:
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Donna Air, Adewale, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Freddie Boath, Oded Fehr, Dwayne Johnson, Patricia Velasquez
Writer-Director: Stephen Sommers
Producers: Sean Daniel, Bob Ducsay, James Jacks, Don Zepfel
Music: Alan Silvestri

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