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Friday, May 7, 1999

Fun from the crypt

Movie: The Mummy

Posted on Fri, May 7, 1999 at 4:00 AM

The Mummy
Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: 1999-05-07
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Wiesz, John Hannah, Kevin J. O'Connor, Arnold Vosloo
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenwriter: Stephen Sommers
WorkNameSort: The Mummy
Our Rating: 3.50

If you want to attack the corny one-liners and unoriginal plot, it would be easy to bury "The Mummy," a cheesy, campy adventure that follows the filmmaking formula of the "Indiana Jones" factory. But "The Mummy" succeeds on its own sand-filled turf, with nonstop action, jump-out-of-your-seat shocks and stupefying computer animation.

Based neither on the Boris Karloff classic film, nor the Anne Rice novel -- as many Ricephiles had expected -- director/screenwriter Stephen ("Deep Rising") Sommers' obvious rip-off of the "Indiana Jones" series finds French Foreign Legion rebel Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) stumbling upon the ancient Egyptian burial ground of Imhotep (when fleshed out, played by Arnold Vosloo), the high priest of Osiris. The film's impressive prelude, set 3,000 years in the past, shows how Imhotep was buried alive and eaten by scarabs as punishment for having an affair with the ruler's lover.

Back to the present, prim British Egyptologist Evelyn Carnavron (Rachel Weisz) and her fey and amusing brother, Jonathan, also are hot on the trail of the treasures buried within Imhotep's tomb, with O'Connell's approval. But then the conflicts begin, including a disposable troupe of Americans who arrive at the site in time to become the first victims of the awakened mummy's wrath.

The film's outdated approach at first feels rather amateurish, but it soon becomes clear that Sommers is tackling the project tongue-in-cheek. He knows how to keep the elements of suspense at a break-neck pace, leaving little time for the viewer to stop and contemplate the absurdity of the whole venture.

"The Mummy" is packed with some stellar examples of CGI (computer graphic imagery). As the plagues befall the city after Imhotep's release, locusts execute a terrifying assault. But it's the release of the dreaded scarabs, which infiltrate the skin and eat the body alive, that makes the jaw drop. And even though much of the arid Egyptian landscape is obviously computer-generated, the beauty of the work thoroughly makes up for the artifice.

The budding love story between the adversarial Fraser and the lovely, prudish Weisz is calculated but lots of fun. Fraser exudes a likable smart-ass quality and newcomer Weisz is at once comedic and extremely sexy.

In the summer of "Star Wars," it's only fitting that the non-science-fiction "Mummy" stands up as a strong competitor in the adventure genre.


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