The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
dir Rob Cohen
scr Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
with Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, David Calder, Jessey Meng
release US 1.Aug.08, UK 6.Aug.08
08/US Universal 1h52
The Mummy<small>: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor</small>
Mummies dearest: Fraser

bello li hannah
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The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor A misfire of epic proportions, this sequel tries but loses the tone of the first two films. The slapstick is sillier and the action is bigger, but any enjoyable B-movie vibe is missing.

More than a decade (and the war) has passed, and Rick and Evelyn (Fraser and Bello) have retired to their Oxfordshire manor. Although both are bored out of their minds. When an old friend asks them to accompany an artefact to Shanghai, they leap at the potential adventure. What they don't know is that their now-grown son Alex (Ford) has just found the tomb of China's first emperor (Li), who is waiting to be revived so he can resurrect his terracotta army.

Other characters swirl around the story, adding humour (Hannah as Evelyn's goofy brother), action (Yeoh as the immortal guardian of Shangri-La), romance (Leong as her daughter) and villainy (Wong Chau-Sang as a power-mad general). And everyone is accompanied by a flurry of effects work, most of which isn't strictly necessary. Gigantic action set pieces take place at regular intervals, leading to a massive full-on war of undead armies.

But none of this works, because director Cohen replaces the freewheeling fun of the original films with strained comedy and grisly violence. There's massive gunplay, beheadings and some seriously brutal fighting (although the martial arts skills of Li and Yeoh are virtually unused). And there's also rather a lot of corny innuendo laced through the dialog, but none of it has any teeth.

The cast is the best thing here, especially Yeoh and newcomer Leong, who manage to find depth of character in the eye of the CGI hurricane. Bello (replacing Rachel Weisz) gives a broad, plummy turn as Evelyn. And Fraser seems to be working harder than usual, while his strangely unchanging haircut seems to have been mummified. Hannah is left to do vomit-based comedy opposite a yak.

There's a solid story in here that takes the franchise in terrific new directions, but Cohen seems far too eager to blow everything to smithereens, going for blockbuster scale rather than enjoyably scruffy adventure. As a result, none of the action sequences generate any excitement at all and the in-between stuff is so wilfully nutty that it falls completely flat.

cert 12 themes, strong violence, language 4.Aug.08

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send your review to Shadows... The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Laurie T, Minneapolis: "All I can say is go see this on the big screen. I loved the first two movies - so much laughter in between scary monster moments. And the third does not disappoint - we laughed out loud and jumped out of our seats - or at least I did. My husband complains I scratch his arms. But really - we enjoyed this movie a lot. You can tell that once an adventure junky - always an adventure junky. I did miss the actress who played his wife in the first 2 - but the replacement is okay." (1.Aug.08)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall