The Mummy Returns

It has been eight years since our favorite legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and beautiful Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) battled against a 3000-year old nemesis named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo.) Now, it's 1933 and deep within the bowels of the British Museum of London an ancient terror is about to be released on the unsuspecting world in "The Mummy Returns."

Robin's Review: B

When "The Mummy," loosely based on the 1932 classic starring Boris Karloff, opened in 1999 it was to record breaking box office numbers. Eventually racking up over $400-mil worldwide, it is the 31st highest grossing film, ever. So, you didn't expect a sequel?

And, quite a sequel it is. Writer/director Stephen Sommers paid close attention to what worked and didn't in the first flick and honed it into a well-paced, sometimes funny, sometimes exciting, and always good looking, action adventure tale.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz get the chance to develop, more fully, their characters from the '99 film. Rick O'Connell used to be an independent-minded adventurer who only had himself to care about. Now, he's a husband and a father and has a whole new set of responsibilities, but he still has the heart and soul of a swashbuckler. Fraser melds the two sides of Rick together with a skill and charm that I've grown to appreciate in the actor. Rachel Weisz gets to be an action heroine a la "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," as she goes toe-to-toe with her old nemesis, Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez). Weisz handles the action stuff well and plays Evelyn as smart, capable and every bit as venturesome as Rick.

There are other familiar faces from the first film with Arnold Vosloo reprising his role as the ferocious Imhotep, who wants to take over the world and still has the hots for Anck-Su-Namun. Oded Fehr is, once again, the stoic Ardeth Bay, a proud member of the Medjai, defender of the righteous and enemy of Imhotep. Both characters are more symbol than anything else. John Hannah is back as Evelyn's sniveling, high-maintenance brother Jonathan.

Some new faces show up, too, with young Freddie Boath playing Rick and Evelyn's son, Alex. At first, the kid comes across as too cute. Oh, boy, I thought, another pretty, precocious child actor. But, Boath hangs in there and, as the story progresses, you begin to like the boy. Comic relief is provided on a couple of fronts with the evil Lock-Nah (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) determined to personally kill Alex and thwarted, by the boy, every time. Shaun Parkes provides both comedy and heroism as the owner of Magic Carpet Airways, a company that eschews conventional airplanes in favor of Izzy's homemade "dirigible." WWF champion Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson makes his "acting" debut as the Scorpion King who sold his soul to Anubis, but the incredible physical presence of the wrestling star is really relegated to special effects in the big finale.

Of course, the reason most of us want to see "The Mummy Returns" is for the anticipated kick-ass F/X and they are in ample quantity here. The computer-generated images are used throughout, from the big battle scenes with a cast of thousands of CG creatures, like the dog-headed warriors of the dark lord, Anubis. There are lots of killer mummy effects, including hundreds of pygmy mummies that decimate the numbers of the bad guys. These little fellers have a distinctly spooky quality about them.

The production is lavishly handled on all accounts. Veteran lenser Adrian Biddle gives the same quality look to the film that he provided for the first. When the action shifts from Egypt to London, the colors change from golden, warm hues to dark, colder colors. Costume and production effectively capture the 30's period details. There is a goodly influence from such groundbreaking adventures as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Gremlins" and "Around the World in 80 Days."

"The Mummy Returns" is a full 2+ hours long but is so evenly paced and well told that you don't even notice the time. It's fun and full of adventure and has enough F/X to satisfy the most jaded action fan.