The Mummy Returns (2001)
Main cast: Brendan Fraser (Rick O'Connell), Rachel Weisz (Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell), John Hannah (Jonathan Carnahan), Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep), Oded Fehr (Ardeth Bay), Patricia Velazquez (Meela/Anck-Su-Namun), Freddie Boath (Alex O'Connell), and The Rock (The Scorpion King)
Director: Stephen Sommers

The Mummy Returns, the sequel to the 1999 movie The Mummy is more CGI-heavy. In fact, it is as if Stephen Sommers, who wrote the script as well as directed the movie, had gone on a Fighting Fantasy gamebook binge before conjuring up the plot for the movie.

TMR takes place ten years after the first movie. Reincarnated mummy leman Anck-Su-Namun, now known as Meela, with her cohorts is again planning the reincarnation of Pharoah-killing bad boy mummy Imhotep. This time around, they will also equip Imhotep with some bracelet thingie of a long-dead warrior minion of the Egyptian god of death Anubis. But at the same time, at the other end of Egypt, our hero Rick and heroine Evelyn, now husband and wife, are led to the bracelet of the Scorpion King by Evelyn's dreams and visions. See, thousands of years ago Evelyn was the most un-Egyptian-looking daughter of the very Pharaoh that Imhotep and Samun murdered.

Ahem, explaining the plot is giving me a headache already. I'll just say what happens next is that Evelyn gets kidnapped, Rick and gang rescue her, Alex their son gets kidnapped, Rick and gang rescue him, and everyone dukes it out in some magical plateau oasis in the middle of Egyptian nowhere.

There are some illogical nonsense in this movie, such as Rick outrunning daylight - has our hero been taking lessons from The Flash? - and a blimp that actually runs on turbo jet engine-like devices. And the CGI elements threaten to swamp this movie into incoherence. Sommers shamelessly pilfers elements from movies like The Lost World (pygmy mummies in the grasses, meet velociraptors in the grasses) to produce an uneven movie.

But I do love how Fraser and Wiesz actually succeed in giving this movie some humanity. They really do behave like a loving couple without going over the top. And wow, the female characters in this movie have undergone a transformation from damsel/drool object in the first movie to kick-ass babes in this one, one never seen since Sarah in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Oded Fehr and John Hannah are wasted in their roles, and Imhotep looks castrated - no surprise, considering how this movie is more about special effects than anything.

And that boy is pretty watchable too. No cheap tears, no mushy stuff, just a ten-year old brat behaving his age. Nice.

I find TMR a less satisfying movie than the 1999 original. There's just too much emphasis on chases and flashes at the expense of good storytelling. It's a testament to Wiesz and Fraser's talents that they actually succeeded in surviving the CGI onslaught to give a winning performance. They make such a cute, lovely couple that actually complement each other's strengths and make up the other's weaknesses. It's rare to find such wonderful coupling in a movie that is all about flash and pyrotechnics, and it's the sole saving grace of this rather soulless movie.

Rating: 78

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