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The Mummy Returns (2001)



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Sometimes what makes or breaks a movie like this is subtle. 1999's The Mummy was light, adventuresome, unassuming, and downright gleeful in its embrace of the camp and cliches of its progenitors. The Mummy Returns is short-sighted. The knowledge of its heritage dates no further back than the 1999 film. It is self-conscious and tries too hard to up the ante. Action scenes and humor are inserted in service to the pace of the film, not to its story. Missing is the thrill of discovery from the first film. One of the problems with sequels in general is that the characters all know and trust each other from the outset, and so do we. That's a problem here: the very few new characters are inconsequential decorations.

And yet, few individual pieces of this movie are outright bad. The embarrassingly bad gremlin attack was a gross miscalculation, but other than that there are some nice set pieces, in particular a mummy fight on a double decker bus and a flashback to a knife duel. A tearful character scene toward the end is very moving -- quite an accomplishment in an otherwise implausible story -- and Brendan Fraser again hits all the right notes in his portrayal of the rugged adventure hero, even when he's not given the proper material.

I wanted to like this movie, and in many ways I did, but it's an affectionate miss for me.

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