In a summer that has been filled with movies and sequels nobody asked for (I'm sure many Americans are still wondering where that "X-Files" movie came from), "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" appears to be high atop the list.
Heck, the last "Mummy" sequel -- that one with the big-screen debut of The Rock -- came out so long ago, I forgot it existed and thought this was the sequel to the original.
Still, since this is the summer that also gave us the fourth "Indiana Jones" movie (which I'm sure some of you had forgotten about until I just reminded you), Universal thought they would be cute and be the first to rip that movie off.
This sequel has wild man adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his archaeologist wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, taking over for Rachel Weisz) living a life of retired, domesticated boredom in mid-1930s England. When they get called on to take a precious artifact to China, the thought of marriage-revitalizing adventure prompts them to take the offer.
Little do they know that they are getting lured into a plot to break an evil mummified emperor (Jet Li, barely feeling it) out of a centuries-old spell brought on by a wronged sorceress (Michelle Yeoh, feeling it -- but not much).
Director Rob Cohen ("The Fast & the Furious") and screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar ("Smallville") must have known the fourth "Indy" movie would revolve around Jones dealing with his son: This movie has the couple trying to keep their rebellious son (Australian actor Luke Ford, not to be confused with the Australian porn journalist), also a danger-seeking explorer, in check.
Actually, "Mummy" looks like it rips off "Indy" sequels two through four.
A fireworks-heavy chase scene through the streets of Shanghai is practically a frenetic carbon copy of the mad Shanghai dash at the beginning of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," while Fraser and Ford's bickering brings to mind the bickering Harrison Ford and big poppa Sean Connery did in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
At times, "Mummy" rolls like the most passable straight-to-DVD sequel ever to hit the big screen. Cohen relies on heavily packed action sequences that could appease anyone looking for just that in a movie.
Unfortunately, even the most insane thrills can't camouflage Gough and Millar's corny, cheesy dialogue. The movie seems so intent on showing us its cheeky side, you may get annoyed by all the smart aleckiness and just wish for everyone to get serious.
The movie is also miscast up the wazoo, with the buff, baby-faced Fraser still looking younger than the dude playing his son. And while I'll watch the tantalizing Bello in anything, casting her as a British chick doesn't make any sense, especially considering Hollywood is now inundated with British actresses.
For the most part, you basically get what you're supposed to get with "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," a grade-C actioner that is as durable and efficient as it is ultimately disposable.
But hey, you probably knew that the minute you heard there was another "Mummy" sequel -- right after you said to yourself, "There's another 'Mummy' sequel? Why?"