The Mummy Returns (12)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: Disc One: Director's Commentary; DVD-Rom Special Features: "Unlock the secrets to THE SCORPION KING", Exclusive access to the movie production, Mummy Returns Game Demo Screen Saver. Disc Two: 20 minutes "Spotlight on location" featurette; An exclusive conversation with The Rock, The Scorpion King; Egyptology 201; The Mummy Returns Chamber of Doom; Music Video; Outtakes; Visual and Special Effects; Trailer; Production Notes.

IT OFFERS a tremendous spectacle, boasts some jaw dropping special effects and plenty of crowd pleasing set pieces but, ultimately, The Mummy Returns is an empty experience.

Symptomatic of everything that's bad about the blockbuster season, Stephen Sommers' follow-up to the surprise summer hit of 1999 seems to be driven by the maxim `nothing succeeds like excess'. So while it may feel like a rollercoaster ride of a movie, there is a good chance you will sicken of it by the end.

Not that this has stopped US audiences turning out in their droves - for The Mummy Returns took in a record-breaking $68.1 million during its first weekend, making it the highest ever three-day non-holiday opening in history and the second biggest opening of all time, following The Lost World.

Set eight years after the events of the first film, Sommers' sequel re-unites original cast members Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr and Patricia Velasquez, as well as bringing in newcomers Freddie Boath and WWF sensation The Rock.
It's 1933, the Year of the Scorpion, and Fraser's heroic adventurer, Rick O'Connell, is now married to Egyptologist Evelyn (Weisz) and happily raising a son, Boath's Alex, in London.

Their idyllic existence is shattered, however, when a chain of events finds the corpse of Imhotep (Vosloo's Mummy) resurrected in the British Museum and a new threat to the world emerge in the long dormant form of The Scorpion (The Rock), another mythical warrior with equally devastating powers, who is placed on a collision course with Imhotep's bid for immortality.

On the surface, The Mummy Returns sounds and even looks like being a winner; but look a little deeper and you realise what a shallow experience it really is. As sequels go, it is neither an improvement on the first film, nor has it much more to offer in its relentless pursuit of Box Office gold.

And, even worse, the makers do little to remove the feeling that this, at the end of the day, is nothing more than an Indiana Jones-wannabe which may benefit from the considerable advances in special effects since `Indy' last cracked his whip but which hasn't much to offer in the way of originality.
Indeed, not content with poaching from the aforementioned series (there are times when even the music sounds the same, while Fraser's "Mummies, I hate Mummies" could even be "Nazis, I hate these guys" from the Last Crusade), Sommers also poaches from countless other movies, including Spielberg's ET and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

And while Fraser remains as likeable as ever in the lead role, too many of the remaining cast seem lost amid the sand - Weisz and Hannah, in particular, come across as annoying rather than endearing, Vosloo is nowhere near as menacing as he should be as the titular character and in Bloath, Hollywood has come up with yet another annoying child actor to rival the infamous Culkin (if only the O'Connells had left dearest Alex home, alone, things may have been better).

On the plus side, there are some great moments - the opening battle is as visually stunning as it is impressive, while a chase involving a double decker bus through the streets of London is great fun - making this a suitably enjoyable Saturday night no-brainer, but on the whole I left this particular desert experience thirsting for something a little bit more substantial.