If you're expecting bandaged-wrapped corpses and a lurching Boris Karloff-type villain, then you've come to the wrong movie. But if outrageous effects, a hunky hero, and some hearty laughs are what you're looking for, the 1999 version of The Mummy is spectacularly good fun. Yes, the critics called it "hokey," "cheesy," and "pallid." Well, the critics are unjust. Granted, the plot tends to stray, the acting is a bit of a stretch, and the characters occasionally slip into cliché, but who cares? When that action gets going, hold tight--those two hours just fly by.
The premise of the movie isn't that far off from the original. Egyptologist and general mess Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) discovers a map to the lost city of Hamunaptra, and so she hires rogue Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) to lead her there. Once there, Evelyn accidentally unlocks the tomb of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), a man who had been buried alive a couple of millennia ago with flesh-eating bugs as punishment for sleeping with the pharaoh's girlfriend. The ancient mummy is revived, and he is determined to bring his old love back to life, which of course means much mayhem (including the unleashing of the 10 plagues) and human sacrifice. Despite the rather gory premise, this movie is fairly tame in terms of violence; most of the magic and surprise come from the special effects, which are glorious to watch, although Imhotep, before being fully reconstituted, is, as one explorer puts it, rather "juicy." Keep in mind this film is as much comedy as it is adventure--those looking for a straightforward horror pic will be disappointed. But for those who want good old-fashioned eye-candy kind of fun, The Mummy ranks as one of choicest flicks of 1999. --Jenny Brown
The Mummy Returns
Proving that bigger is rarely better, The Mummy Returns serves up so much action and so many computer-generated effects that it quickly grows exhausting. In his zeal to establish a lucrative franchise, writer-director Stephen Sommers dispenses with such trivial matters as character development and plot logic, and charges headlong into an almost random buffet of minimum story and maximum mayhem, beginning with a prologue establishing the ominous fate of the Scorpion King (played by World Wrestling Federation star the Rock, in a cameo teaser for his later starring role in--you guessed it--The Scorpion King). Dormant for 5,000 years, under control of the Egyptian god Anubis, the Scorpion King will rise again in 1933, which is where we find The Mummy's returning heroes Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, now married and scouring Egyptian ruins with their 8-year-old son, Alex (Freddie Boath).
John Hannah (as Weisz's brother) and Oded Fehr (as mystical warrior Ardeth Bay) also return from The Mummy, and trouble begins when Alex dons the Scorpion King's ancient bracelet, coveted by the evil mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), who's been revived by... oh, but does any of this matter? With a plot so disposable that it's impossible to care about anything that happens, The Mummy Returns is best enjoyed as an intermittently amusing and physically impressive monument of Hollywood machinery, with gorgeous sets that scream for a better showcase, and digital trickery that tops its predecessor in ambition, if not in payoff. By the time our heroes encounter a hoard of ravenous pygmy mummies, you'll probably enjoy this movie in spite of itself. --Jeff Shannon
The Scorpion King
There's nothing original in The Scorpion King, but this derivative action franchise gets off to a rousing start by cleverly stealing from a lot of better movies. Capitalizing on his brief cameo in The Mummy Returns, Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. World Wrestling Federation star the Rock) stars as Mathayus, an Akkadian assassin in the age preceding Egyptian pharaohs, who vows to avenge his brother's murder by an undefeated warlord (Steven Brand) prophesied to become the desert-ruling Scorpion King. Their battle for supremacy comprises most of the film's brisk 95-minute running time, punctuated by comic relief from Mathayus's obligatory sidekick (Grant Heslov), romance with a beautiful sorceress (Kelly Hu), and alliance with a massive Nubian (Michael Clarke Duncan) on the eve of their climactic showdown. There's no rhyme or reason to the film's depiction of ancient civilization (the costuming is particularly ludicrous), but the Rock demonstrates adequate action-star potential, and director Chuck Russell (The Mask) wraps it all in a slick, professional package. --Jeff Shannon