The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a perfect summer popcorn film. I admit that my expectations weren’t very high for this latest incarnation of a series I didn’t love to begin with, but with director Rob Cohen (no relation!) at the helm, this Mummy became the high-action thrill ride the recent Indiana Jones sequel should have been.
Set in 1947, happily married but thoroughly bored Rick and Evelyn O’Connell, played by Brendan Fraser and that famous “British” actress Maria Bello, are given one last mission which brings them face to face with not only their grown son, Alex (Luke Ford) and Evelyn’s wastrel brother Jonathan (the wry and engaging John Hannah), but also a Chinese Emperor mummy (Jet Li) bent on world domination. Of course, if you’re bothered by the fact that Bello and Fraser are only about 13 or 14 years older than their “son” is, or that Bello’s plummy accent comes and goes, sometimes in the same line, then maybe this adventure isn’t for you.
The set pieces are a lot of fun, including a chase scene through Shanghai and the climactic battle between skeletal good guys and terracotta mummy guards. The family conflicts between Alex and his folks don’t ring remotely true, but thankfully they are dispensed with quickly, allowing for more cool things blowing up and funny bits involving Fraser and Hannah. Bello, despite her shaky accent, is also a lot of fun to watch. Ford is bland and looks too old against Bello and Fraser, but it is a pleasure seeing Michelle Yeoh, who gives her sorceress character refreshing gravitas. Overall, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is exactly the kind of movie I would have loved as a kid, without all the cheap gore and sadism that mars most scary films these days.
UPDATE: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.