124 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, May 7, 1999
Written & directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor, Jonathan Hyde & Oded Fehr
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 40%|
LETTERBOX: IT WOULD HELP
One for the video library. Put it right next to "Radiers of the Lost Ark." As good as it gets for Saturday afternoon dumb fun adventure. Director Stephen Sommers pumped every frame full of sumptuous and scary visuals, so to do it justice, you really should get it wide-screen too.
VIDEO RELEASE: 9/28/99
More than an hour of F/X-related features (some interactive) mean you won't be able to turn off the TV for a long time after the movie. The director/editor commentary is fun because Sommers keeps pointing out continuity errors and other problems with the film and laughing at himself. However, film's audio is too muted by commentary track. When Sommers talks about dialogue, you can hear the lines he's talking about.|
NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
F/X featurette (included trailer for original "Mummy," interactive Egyptology crash-course, deleted scenes (no commentary), 2 trailers
2.35:1 ratio; 5.1 Dolby
Excellent on feature, low-res on bonuses
DVD RATING: ***
"The Mummy" breathes new life into 1930s-style action-adventure
Every inch a traditional, joyously corny, pith helmet swashbuckler flick -- complete with damsel in distress -- Universal's post-modern remake of "The Mummy" is a masterful marriage of '30s adventure/horror and self-cognizant, Millennium-era, thrill-a-minute action.
Packed with awesome CGI special effects and anchored by Brendan Fraser, an ideal dashing-but-scruffy, lantern-jawed hero, there isn't much left of the 1932 Boris Karloff original here, but as good old-fashioned adventure goes, this "Mummy" is giddy, low-brow fun.
Fraser stars as an soldier of fortune in 1923, leading a group of treasure hunters and archeologists to a mythological 3,000-year-old Egyptian city he stumbled on to once before. During their dig, the group inadvertently awakens an undead and unfriendly mummy -- an ancient priest who was buried alive in a sarcophagus filled with flesh-eating scarab beetles millennia ago for diddling a Pharaoh's mistress, and now he wants her back.
The mummy effects -- and there are many as he regenerates his rotting flesh by sucking the life out of the party members with the least dialogue -- are the most seamless work out of Industrial Light and Magic since the last "Jurassic Park." The decayed antagonist is played by a Billy Zane look-a-like (and act-a-like) named Arnold Vosloo, but while he's fantastically ominous when finally fully fleshed, the effects do most of his work for him as his supernatural powers allow him to roar with an unhinged jaw and dissolve into sand to leak into a locked bedroom through a keyhole.
Inside that locked bedroom is Rachel Weisz ("The Land Girls," "Going All the Way") as a pretty, prim antiquities museum librarian who transforms herself into a sensuous sex bomb with the removal of her glasses and a couple bobby pins.
As the dig's resident Egyptologist, she extols mythology and pretend she dislikes our unmannerly hero despite a firey sexual tension. As the only girl in the picture, she's also there to be abducted by the Mummy as a new body for his also-mummified love and to be chained to a stone slab during the climax, as Fraser commits feats of daring-do in a joyously over-the-top battle against legions of the undead.
If you care to pick it apart, "The Mummy" is full of stupid mistakes. Why did the Pharaoh kill this priest in such a way that he was sure to some day come back omnipotent? How did this mummy stay undiscovered for so long when its mysterious protectors -- who attack whenever there's a lull in the story -- are so inept? Why doesn't the scholarly Weisz know better than to read from the book of the dead?
But writer-director Stephen Sommers ("Deep Rising," the live-action "Jungle Book") pokes fun at the inevitable flaws of a movie based on cheesy antique horror with such deliberate self-mockery that "The Mummy" is all the more enjoyable because of its silliness.
"That happens a lot around here," Fraser deadpans when the wind blows ominously through a scene for the fifth or sixth time. When, in the throes of the Mummy's supernatural havoc, he's asked what he's going to do, he replies matter-of-factly, "Rescue the damsel in distress. Kill the bad guy. Save the world."
While "The Mummy" sees its source material through Indiana Jones-colored glasses, Sommers embraces the corny spirit of the 30s adventures in a way the Indy movies don't. It's silly and proud, and I like that in a action-adventure.