with Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hanna. Directed and written by Stephen Sommers. Rated: PG-13, contains cartoon violence. In Missoula (Carmike 10), Kalispell (Liberty), Hamilton (Pharaohplex), Ronan. TWO AND ONE-HALF STARS
Hail, hail, the gang's all here: Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), the brash, insouciant adventurer; Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), the brash insouciant librarian; John Hanna, Evelyn's poltroon brother; the mummy Imhotep (Egyptian god of pancake houses), and others. Additionally, there is the disgustingly precocious whelp Alex, offspring of Rick and Evelyn, now married. (Rick and Evelyn spend so much time snogging, you wonder why they only have one child.)
The setup here is extremely cluttered and includes past lives for most of the above-mentioned, as well as a Scorpion King (played by the wrestler Rock, whose name describes his acting range very accurately) who has a huge army of dog-like things, and about 18 dozen secret chambers, and a big gold bracelet and a magic scepter and a pyramid of gold, and more curses than you could shake an asp at - oh yeah, asps, lots of asps, and Nubian warriors, and the 12 tribes of Magi, and an evil god, Anubis, and a dirigible out of Jules Verne, and, kidnappings.
There are men fighting men. Men fighting women. Women fighting women. Men fighting scorpion kings. Human warriors fighting dog warriors. A very cool high-speed chase through the streets of London featuring a double-decker bus and several mummies; an even cooler flash flood in the form of a 700-foot high wave that barrels down a steep canyon while the dirigible tries to keep in front of it; the total destruction of several big-time temples and the British Museum.
It is best summarized by the evil curator of the British Museum who tells Rick and Evelyn's punk son, who has put the magic bracelet on his arm that he has "started a chain reaction that could bring about the next apocalypse."
Rick's and Evelyn's inspiration are Nick and Nora Charles. But they are hardly the Thin Persons. Their repartee is self-conscious and a beat or two slow. I'd call them the Could-Add-A-Few-Pounds persons.
The comic characters - Evelyn's brother, and Izzy, the dirigible pilot - are soggy, flaccid creations.
The child, Alex, is unspeakable: if there were a suite added to Hell, it would be a living room, with Barcalounger, and an unstoppable television showing only Alex and that little creep girl from the Pepsi commercials.
The funniest thing about this movie - and it is unintentional - is the language, which is supposed to be ancient Egyptian, and might well be. It sounds, however, like a combination of Lakota and Hawaiian.
"Naku mashente, la aho mani, nun wah."
"Anck Su naman, komishte!"
"Dime-Tappe, Excedrin picante, Percodan, lanuki encontraba Watusi."
This movie makes no sense, but it is a mind-bending visual extravaganza - the wall of water, for example, makes Charlton Heston's parting of the Red Sea (or was that God's parting of the Red Sea?) seem like a first grader splashing in a plastic pool - and a full-blown and commendable Saturday matinee treat in an Indiana Jones/Star Wars sort of way. (The fact that it is nothing but Indiana Jones re-written does not take away from its entertainment value.)
Youngsters - beginning at age 10 or so - should be thrilled. There are a few nightmarish Hieronymus Boschian moments (billions of scorpions in a pit, the dog soldiers) that might lend themselves to nightmares - but they would be good old-fashioned nightmares.
What saves this movie, what allows us to just sit back and be entertained purely, is its apparent self-knowledge: Yeah, I'm a big-time rip-off of previous movies, but so what? I'm a quality big-time rip-off.
Have fun. I did.