In these days of bigger-is-better filmmaking, the term summer movie has become synonymous with the term B-movie. And make no mistake, "The Mummy" meets the definition of both.
Unfortunately, this special-effects-driven film isn't a particularly good example of either. One thing it is, though, is derivative, with shameless swipes from the Indiana Jones films, "Stargate," "Jason and the Argonauts" and even "Ben Hur."
It's also one of the more confused productions in recent cinematic history, as the tone of the piece changes from thrilling adventure to wacky slapstick comedy to horror and back again in an obvious attempt to expand its audience. But it's in the hands of a director (Stephen Sommers, of "Deep Rising" infamy) who isn't talented enough to pull off any one of the styles.
Also, Sommers take more than two hours to tell a story that originally encompassed a grand total of 73 minutes (the much-superior 1932 black-and-white version starring Boris Karloff).
That's not to say that the movie is completely unwatchable, though. The digitally created special effects are quite spectacular, Brendan Fraser makes a very likable hero, and the plentiful action sequences may be enough to satisfy some audiences.
Fraser stars as Rick O'Connell, a Foreign Legionnaire who stumbles onto the ruins of Hamunaptra, the legendary Egyptian City of the Dead, while battling an Egyptian army in 1923. Years later, the recently freed adventurer leads an expedition back to find the city and its riches.
Also in his search party are the beautiful but clumsy Egyptologist Evelyn Carnarvon (Rachel Weisz) and her playboy brother, Jonathan (John Hannah, from "Sliding Doors").
However, the intrepid trio isn't alone in its quest. Rick's cowardly former colleague Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor) is leading an expedition of American treasure hunters, who are planning to plunder the ruins.
Both parties arrive at the city simultaneously, with similarly disastrous results. While Evelyn accidentally opens the sarcophagus of the evil high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), the Americans unearth a cursed tome that helps bring his mummified remains back to life.
And while the survivors are on the run from Imhotep, they also seek a way to stop him before he unleashes the fabled 10 plagues upon the Earth.
It's a good setup, but Sommers takes more than an hour just to get the story to that point. Compounding the problem are huge gaps in logic and story several connecting scenes seem to have been lopped out, despite the already-long running time.
Another liability is some of the performances. Fraser is fine in the lead role, but he and the bland Weisz have no romantic chemistry, which doesn't stop Sommers from forcing the two together.
Meanwhile, Vosloo (the poor man's Billy Zane) isn't nearly expressive enough to be a threatening villain, and Hannah and O'Connor seem to be aping others' awful performances (Dudley Moore and "Star Trek's" Walter Koenig, respectively).
"The Mummy" is rated PG-13 for violent gunplay, hand-to-hand combat and miscellaneous creature and insect attacks, some crude references, veiled female nudity and scattered mild profanity.