Rated PG-13 - Running time: 2:00 - Released 5/7/99

Remember Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy? This film is very similar. I'd call it Indiana Jones Meets Mel Brooks. Written and directed by Stephen Sommers (Deep Rising), The Mummy is half action/adventure and half camp. Sporting awesome special effects and some truly horrible images, it blends ancient Egyptian mythology with every slapstick bit in the book, from eye pokes to spit takes, not to mention Brendan Fraser's evolving style of goofball delivery.

The Mummy begins in ancient Egypt, in the city of Thebes. The pharaoh Seti discovers that his high priest, Imhotep, is having an affair with his wife, Anck-Su-Namun. Incensed, he dooms Imhotep to the worst fate imaginable: After having his tongue removed, he is sealed alive in a sarcophagus with hundreds of flesh-eating scarab beetles. Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite . . .

Cut to 3000 years later (the 1920s). A foreign legion officer named Rick O'Connell (Fraser) gets too close to the high priest's resting place, and weird things start happening. See, there's a little thing I forgot to mention: If Imhotep's sarcophagus is ever opened, he will be released as the most evil force in the world, able to destroy everyone in his path, not to mention turn himself into sand (wasn't there a guy like that in the Fantastic Four?). So O'Connell, having been dangerously close to opening the thing, wants nothing more to do with it. But he meets up with a beautiful librarian named Evie (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) who want to discover Imhotep's resting place so they can find the famous solid gold book of Amon Ra.

According to legend, the book has magical powers, but since it's made of gold, it can also make whoever finds it very, very, very, very, very, very rich. And there's also tons of other treasures buried nearby. So O'Connell, Evie, and Jonathan set off to discover what lies under the sand, and soon find they have competition. A gang of Americans led by an Egyptologist (Jonathan Hyde) wants to get there first, and, unlike O'Connell and Evie, they are not concerned with the dangers of disturbing the legendary Imhotep. So they disturb him. Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) awakens and basically goes on a rampage, planning to use Evie as a sacrifice to revive his old girlfriend. O'Connell must, in his own words, "rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, and save the world."

This movie is fun. And it's also scary. But it seems the two styles are working at cross-purposes with each other, as if Sommers couldn't decide which to go with. It's too scary to be called a comedy; too silly to be called action/adventure. Another film that had this problem was Men In Black, but that film had Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, an excellent comedy/straight team. In this movie, Fraser has the burden of supplying both halves of the package, and he's not quite up to it. The other characters spend the majority of their time running in terror (except for Vosloo, who provides the terror, aided by a large bank of CGI computers). Weisz is pretty but bland, and the romance that's supposed to grow between her and Fraser... doesn't. However, there are always the effects. Effects have saved many lesser films than this, and they're here in full measure. Sandstorms with a face, millions of beetles, people on fire, ambulatory skeletons — it's all here. And if Fraser's delivery doesn't quite match up with Sommers's screenplay, there's still enough laughs and thrills to make it worth the ticket price. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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