The Mummy
Rating -

Adventure (US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 127 Minutes

Brendan Frasier:
Rick O'Connell
Rachel Weisz: Evelyn
John Hannah: Jonathan
Arnold Vosloo: Imhotep
Kevin J. Connor: Beni
Jonathan Hyde: The Egyptologist
Oded Fehr: Ardeth Behr

Produced by Patricia Carr, Sean Daniel and James Jacks; Directed and screenwritten by Stephen Sommers

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Hollywood's legendary monster movies were not the kinds of films that would leave an audience shrinking down to their seats. They were usually ridiculous attractions, in which the lame special effects and utterly ludicrous storytelling were the cause of much laughter and mockery underneath the theater screen. Furthermore, the 'monsters' weren't even scary--instead, they were ugly, vile, sometimes goofy-looking creatures that must have been thought up over a dinner table when a filmmaker witnessed an infant create something using mashed potatoes and various other foods.

And yet most of these movies remain either popular or unforgotten in some way. Why? Because even though they looked awful, they were actually quite exciting--unboring, fun, action-packed, and filled with an inexplainable entertainment value. Curiously, these pictures also gave us some of the notorious monsters we recognize today: the bloodsucking vampire, the creepy Frankenstein, the howling werewolf, and of course, the bandage-wrapped mummy. Each creature came equipped with all the necessary devices: a meaning in life, a creator, and, of course, a way of being destroyed. A stake through the heart, for instance, could kill the vampire, while shooting a werewolf with a silver bullet would put a halt on his horrendous rampage. The ploys have been carried down the line of horror films, making the legends of these creatures so clichéd and so obvious that, even if you haven't seen the movies, you could still identify who they were, what they did, and what killed them.

Set aside those monsters for now. They don't matter. Instead, think of the Mummy, which is essentially one of the most strangely ridiculous creatures that could have ever been thought of by human minds. Here is something that does nothing but sway around, holding his hands out, trying to grasp the victim that it is chasing. And yet it never occurs to any of the victims that, if they could just unravel those bandages, nothing is underneath, and they can stop running.

Such an idea seems almost nonexistent in Stephen Sommers' "The Mummy," a film that looks and acts like an old Hollywood monster movie, but remains quite exciting by stretching the truth about what we think is the legend of a bandage-wrapped creature. There isn't even a walking zombie in the movie, other than a skeleton with an ugly smile, which rebuilds its body using the meat and limbs from those who set him free in the first place. Afterwards, what we get is the visage of the legendary Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian man who slept with the Pharaoh's mistress. He tried reviving her after death, got caught, and was cursed and then thrown alive into a tomb filled with flesh-eating Scarabs. Sworn to return years later after one would read the words off of the book of the dead, he emerges in the film's main setting, the 1920s, when (in the movies) adventurers were young and winsom, heroines were fetching and regal, and villains were creepy yet idiotic. All of these traits are used to the director's advantage, who, in this case, is also the writer. They take on new meaning because they are matched up against elements of fantasy and adventure that have scarcely been seen before. Think of "Indiana Jones" meeting the 1930s Boris Karloff film "The Mummy," and you'll understand my interpretation.

The movie's idiotic impressions begin right after the setup. Once we've seen Imhotep and his burial, we begin with Brendan Frasier, a treasure hunter of sorts, battling desert priests in the territory of Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, which only appears at dawn. He is there looking for, naturally, some sort of treasure, and realizes that this territory carries deep secrets. First we hear a whistle in the air, and then a roar in the ground; he crosses the path of an Egyptian statue, and the face of Imhotep emerges from the sand underneath it. The image is intriguing, but nothing to jump up and down about.

Moments like those lead towards the thickening of the plot, in which Rick and his treasure-hunting friends accidentally read words from the book of the dead and set this evil spirit of Imhotep free. There is an instance when we see a walking skeleton come towards an American treasure-seeker, and he lets out a scream of fright. Later, we notice that this hunter's eyes have been torn out of their sockets, so that the walking corpse can see again.

A small consolation for these people comes later on, when they are told that the spirit they have revived is a legend who, once resurrected, would bring with him the 10 plagues of Egypt. Furthermore, their mistake is reversible by only one thing--going back to the city and locating a golden book which, once read, will set Imhotep's spirit free of the curse and allow him to pass onto the other side. Too bad that their only Egyptian hyroglyphic-reader, Evelyn, is Imhotep's prisoner, and hers is the body he plans to use when resurrecting his old lover.

"The Mummy" doesn't have a reason to be funny, but we're given humor anyway. This is so, in case one gets bored with the action, we have something else to be amused by. And believe me, the humor sells the film more than the actual visuals. For instance, there's a scene in which the skeleton of Imhotep approaches Rick (Frasier), and he opens his mouth and roars. To show how tough Rick remains in situations like this, what does he do? He roars back! And if you think that's funny, wait until you see Imhotep get scared off by the hiss of a cat. Now that's a riot!

Despite my protests of the movie being (at times) ridiculous and preposterous, I haven't actually called the movie a bad one, although I will admit that people have their own right to label it with that word. Why? Because these kinds of foolish entertainments never appeal to everyone. I cannot argue against the movie's ridiculous premise, annoying characters, or even the contrived situations. I simply believe that, in any case, people can either choose to enjoy the foolishness, or revile it with all their might. I am one who chooses to enjoy it. After all, I did admire films like "Congo," "Batman And Robin," and "Anaconda."

We are enabled to have a weakness or two at the movies. If a person, for example, could find anything entertaining about "Armageddon," shouldn't I be entitled to enjoy something like "The Mummy?"

I rest my case.

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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