Many years ago, Brendan Fraser fought a mummy. People liked it so much that Brendan Fraser, his movie wife, and their young son fought the same mummy again a few years later. Somehow, we’re back again with Brendan Fraser, a new wife who is the same wife, and a new son who is the same son fighting something that… actually probably doesn’t count as a mummy. However, for the purposes of furthering the adventures of Rick “Ricochet” O’Connell, we’ll all hold our noses and pretend clay-encased Jet Li counts as a mummy.
After serving in World War II, Rick O’Connell (Fraser) and wife Evie (Maria Bello, taking over for Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz, who is now too good for this franchise) have retired to a plush estate in the English countryside. Stealing a plot point directly from The Jewel of the Nile, Evie is now a famous author with two books based on her adventures with her husband. To take more from The Jewel of the Nile, she can’t get her third book started because she’s settled down to boring domestic life. Rick spends his days trying to fly-fish, and Evie spends her days reading her old books to hordes of romance-starved middle-class ladies in hats and gloves.
The adventurous one these days is little Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford), the now-grown son from the second movie. Of course, how he became a full-grown adult while his father seemingly hasn’t aged since the first movie is left unmentioned. Possibly some sort of mummy-based magic. Try not to think about it too much; you might hurt yourself. Alex is following in his father’s footsteps, dashing across the globe, uncovering ancient tombs, and generally getting in adventures.
Of course, Eve and Rick take a last job for the OSS, transporting a rare jewel back to China, where Alex has uncovered the tomb of the cursed Dragon Emperor, Han (Jet Li), who once ruled all of China with an iron fist until double-crossed by a beautiful sorceress, Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh). The gem is said to have the power to raise the Dragon Emperor from his magical slumber and thus free him to rule the world again. That’s why General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) set up all the aforementioned parties. China is in disarray after the war, and he wants his formerly great nation to rise up again thanks to the power of a freedom-crushing dictator.
It’s convoluted, but you see where this is going. The Dragon Emperor is freed, there’s lots of running and flame throwing, Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) is along for comic relief again, and there’s a cute love interest for Alex in the form of Zi’s daughter Lin (Isabella Leong). Also, as you’ve no doubt seen from the trailers, there are Yetis. Or possibly Yeti. Whatever the plural form is.
The Mummy has always been kind of Indiana Jones light. Whereas the Indy franchise seems dead set on continuing with Mutt replacing the elder Dr. Jones, The Mummy franchise seems like it is trying to continue on with Alex replacing the elder Rick O’Connell. Fortunately, Matt Damon… err, I mean Luke Ford (whose American accent comes straight from South Boston), is less annoying than Shia LeBeouf, and it’s not as if Rick O’Connell has become the icon of a generation. I hate the blatant set-up for a sequel, but what can you do? Movie studios love a good franchise.
Like Indy’s latest, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is more entertaining than it has any right to be. Any excuse to reunite Jet Li with Michelle Yeoh is a good one, after all. Even if there’s not nearly enough of the two of them on the screen, they’re always welcome and they are definitely the highlight of the movie. Brendan Fraser is mostly cashing a paycheck here as he coasts by on his charm, and Maria Bello tries her best while displaying a knack for gun-fu. Isabella Leong is cute, which is about all her role requires, and Luke Ford is about the same.
There’s not a lot of depth required in this movie. It’s all about looking good, shooting guns, and CGI. Rob Cohen, who isn’t the most competent director in history, can at least craft a pretty good fight sequence. The CGI varies wildly, with the Terra cotta warriors looking good and the Yeti looking… not so good. Like all computer graphics, the fancier the special effects department tries to be, the less believable the technological puppet. It’s not as beautiful as Hellboy 2, but the earth-tones hide most of the computerized flaws.
This is a big, dumb romp. Even though the comedy consistently falls flat, there’s some kung fu, some American football-playing Yeti, and there’s a lot of adventure. Turn your brain off at the door and check it out on the big screen. This is the kind of movie that is best enjoyed as big and loud as possible.