The Mummy review

Okay, quick round of movie maths. Lawrence Of Arabia + Stargate + The Evil Dead + The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre + Jason And The Argonauts + The Ten Commandments + Biggles + Raiders Of The Lost Ark + Raiders Of The Lost Ark + Raiders Of The Lost Ark Again = Guess What? With barely an original rib in its crumbling body, the cribbing crimes committed by The Mummy should set it up for a critical execution; but this spirited romp throbs with such tongue-in-cheek gusto, it's impossible to dislike.

With a cheeky nod to Terence Fisher's Hammer pic, the yarn unravels with an Egyptian prologue that explains how the Mummy - and his curse - came to be. Accompanied by a voice-over booming straight out of a '50s B-movie, it's an effectively frisky opening that sets anticipation glands throbbing. From then on in, the movie belts it through a series of action sequences (gunfights, fires, a sabotaged boat, a couple of punch-ups and a botched execution) until the heroic trio and assorted Mummy-fodder arrive at the mythical tomb for a dose of the frights.

In fact, it's only when the Mummy is finally unveiled that the movie gives up the scares in favour of barnstorming special effects. Muscles loosely cob-webbed over its frame, the monster's first incarnation looks like a walking anatomy book. But as it whirlwinds more flesh off its shrieking victims and assumes humanoid form, the creature eventually turns out to be a brawny Yul Brynner lookielikie with an occasionally upsetting stretchy cakehole. Nothing like his tubigripped predecessors then, but as with the stumbling bandages of movies past, he just ain't scary.

The flesh-eating scarab beetles, on the other hand, are commendably revolting. Supplying the first of the two gross-out moments (the second being the Mummy tonguing Weisz with his grubby, decomposing mouth), one of the clacking parasites burrows into an unfortunate's shoe, gnaws itself into his skin and bubbles around his face like a mosquito bite on the move. It's a guaranteed seat-squirmer.

However, the rest of the set-pieces are somewhat hit and miss. Helmer Stephen Sommers seems so insistent on filling his thrill quota that the brisk shifting from Big Moment to Funny Bit and back again drains the tension out of many sequences. Still, the actors are game enough, especially an appealingly bumbling Hannah and lantern-jawed Fraser as the Indiana-lite hero.

But if The Mummy refuses to take its actors seriously, it's considerably less flippant about the FX. The visuals are often jaw-on-the-floor astonishing, and every time it unleashes its Pandora's Box of CG tricks, you can't fail to be gobsmacked. Jammed with action and self-consciously stupid, it's what the Silly Season is all about: entertainment with a capital Eeeek!

More a swift series of cliffhangers than coherent plot, The Mummy goes through one eye and out the other. Still, there's no denying its visual verve, broad humour and eye-twirling effects, all above the blockbuster norm. Bollocks, yes, but entertaining bollocks.


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