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Review: 'Mummy' long on swash, short on buckle

By Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Boris Karloff scared the wits out of moviegoers in 1932, playing the title character in the horror film "The Mummy." Since then, the Egyptian monster has been wrapped up in at least seven different film treatments. Now he's back. And this time he's really ticked off.

But be warned if you've seen the trailer and are looking for another "Indiana Jones And Temple Of Doom": This movie strives for that same Saturday-matinee feeling, and the results are close -- but no cigar.

"The Mummy" opens with a sensational special-effects establishment shot of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, 1719 B.C. The shot goes on and on. It's pretty amazing.

Theatrical preview for "The Mummy"
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Paul's Pix: "The Mummy"
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K

As we watch, we get the back story of how an evil high priest, Imhotep, played by Arnold Vosloo, has an affair with the Pharoah's mistress, Anck-Su-Namun. Of course the powers that be are not amused. Imhotep is mummified while still alive and cursed for all time.

Flash forward and ... flash forward

Flash forward 3,000 years to the 1920s. We meet dashing legionnaire hero Rick O'Connell, played by Brendan Fraser. He's most definitely an Indiana Jones wannabe -- minus the whip. During a battle with a strange desert tribe, O'Connell discovers the hidden Egyptian city of Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, in which a vast treasure supposedly is buried. Then suddenly, the mysterious warriors he's fighting leave him to die in the desert.

Flash forward again -- this time just a few years -- and O'Connell's not only still alive (surprise, surprise) but he's now in prison. And about to be hanged. How? Why? Where? When? Don't know. One thing we do know: The continuity and the plot for "The Mummy" are secondary to action and special effects.

O'Connell hooks up with the mandatory beautiful British woman, Evelyn, played by Rachel Weisz. There's also her klutzy sidekick brother Jonathan, played by John Hannah (he co-starred in "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow). Add various other ne'er-do-wells and we're off.

With little or no opposition, this band of adventurers then proceeds to find the treasure, wake up the title Mummy and all his mummy henchmen -- then blah, blah, blah, action, action, action. Fini.

Film history repeats itself

"The Mummy" is going to enjoy a week or so of great business from curious teen-age boys and then will be buried once again -- this time by George Lucas and his gang from "Star Wars."

Unfortunately, this movie is long on swash and short on buckle. And there's a strange lack of conflict until the end, when the Mummy finally starts taking names and kicking butt.

Fraser is fine as an action hero with a big dose of humor, and Weisz is perfectly stunning and ditsy. The effects are of course state-of-the-art. But even so, after a time the mummies start looking a little cartoonish.

Sorry, but good acting, great sets and electronic wizardry don't make up for a lack of story, tension and motivation. Overall "The Mummy" is half-baked. Some of this film works. A lot of it doesn't.

Oh well, Mummy said there'd be days like this.

"The Mummy" is rated PG-13 with a running time of 123 minutes.

Review: 'Blast from the Past' doesn't fizzle, but no sparks either
February 12, 1999
Review: 'Gods and Monsters' flirts poignantly with death
December 2, 1998

Official 'The Mummy' site
Universal Pictures
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