- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
irector Stephen Sommers may have never intended for his big-budget reboot of “The Mummy” to be turned into this generation’s “Indiana Jones,” but the studio clealry had plans of its own. Quickly greenlighting a second installment following the success of the first film, “The Mummy Returns” hit theaters in the summer of 2001 with only one task in mind: to recapture the box office magic of its predecessor by resurrecting the dead more times than John Travolta’s career. Unfortunately, the movie was plagued by a nasty case of sequelitis, and while the campy fun of "The Mummy" was entertaining the first time around, it didn't feel quite as fresh repackaged under a new title.
It's been eight years since Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) first plundered the Egyptian pyramids and incurred the wrath of the mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), and in that time they’ve managed to marry, raise a precocious little tyke named Alex (Freddie Boath), move into a London manor, and head back to the sandy locale to poke around yet another forbidden tomb. You’d think these two would finally learn to read the top of the chest before opening it, but they’re just as hopeless as before. Meanwhile, a London curator has resurrected Imhotep so that he may challenge the godly Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson) and take control of his unbeatable army, but in order to do so, he must first claim a magic bracelet that just so happens to be in the O’Connell’s possession. When Imhotep discovers that the bracelet has attached itself to Alex's wrist, however, he kidnaps the young boy, prompting the O'Connell clan and friends (including John Hannah and Oded Fehr) to swing back into action and save the day.
Unlike the original, “The Mummy Returns” struggles to keep the mood light. The jokes are still there, mind you, but they get lost in the all-you-can-eat buffet of special effects – most of which taste oddly familiar. Sommers has done a good job of making the story more than a simple rehash of the first film, but his insistence on reusing certain tricks (like the face-in-the-sand effect, this time horribly mapped onto a tidal wave of water) makes the overall plot seem less novel than it actually is. Thankfully, the increase of action helps to divert your attention; most notably a welcome twist involving Rachel Weisz’s character that allows the actress to play Evelyn as the strong woman we all knew existed, even if it may seem a little hokey.
Even the greatest action sequences couldn’t make up for the 11th-hour appearance of the Scorpion King, an all-CGI half-man, half-scorpion monster who looks more like a video game character than a menacing demi-god. In his debut role, Dwayne Johnson – the former WWE wrestler and self-proclaimed “most electrifying man in entertainment sports history” – is the laughing stock of the entire film, and not because his acting is suspect. Instead, it’s the embarrassingly bad CG rendering of Johnson as the Scorpion King – a botched visual effect that’s only more noticeable when compared to the relatively top-notch effects in the rest of the film. It completely takes the viewer out of the moment, and it only serves as a reminder as to why sequels should never be rushed. The promise of millions of dollars can be enticing, but not when it’s at the risk of destroying the future of an entire franchise.
Deluxe Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Following in the footsteps of the films themselves, Universal’s Blu-ray release of “The Mummy Returns” is suspiciously similar to that of its predecessor. The U-Control feature – an optional picture-in-picture video commentary with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that plays in the corner of the screen – is still the best of the bunch, and the addition of new extras like a making-of featurette (“Spotlight on Location”), storyboard comparisons, and visual effects before-and-after shots still leave much to be desired. A short interview with The Rock should have been saved for the “Scorpion King” release, while “Unraveling the Legacy of the Mummy” and the special sneak peek of the third film can already be found on the “Mummy” disc. There are a few gems to be found – including an audio commentary with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay, the second part of the creature effects featurette “An Army to Rule the World,” and six minutes worth of outtakes – but they hardly make this HD release a must-buy.