THE MUMMYTOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR MOVIE REVIEW
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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Well let me tell you the bad before I get to the good.
It begins with a sequence of events that are narrated. There is far more narration than is necessary since we are actually seeing what is being explained. Gahh!
Jet Li proved he could turn in a good peformance as we saw in Romeo Must Die, Unleashed, and Hero. In this film, he's little more than a scowling statue, mostly rendered in cgi. How bad is the cgi? Stephen Sommers bad. Universal Pictures bad. That's how bad it is.
Actor Maria Bello replaced Rachel Weisz as Evelyn O'Connell (Rachel apparently didn't like the script) and the story suffers greatly for it. She has nothing to work with here, script-wise, and has zero chemistry with her lead, Brendan Frasier, as her husband Rick. This is odd again because I know Bello is a fine actor, as I saw in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.
John Hannah (THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY RETURNS) returns as Evelyn's wheeler dealer brother, Jonathan Carnahan. For the last two movies, he's been counted on to provide the comedy relief. Unfortunately, he's not given anything funny to do. So he delivers the presumed jokes in loud exclamation points. Witness this exchange where Jonathan's butt catches fire and burns huge and bright for an unusually long time.
Rick: "Jonathan! Your ass is on fire!"
I guess I'm missing the humor on such on-the-nose jewels, and I love the Three Stooges.
Nearly every joke flops and the film makers chose to give some pause time after the punchlines for the expected laughs that never come. Ugh!
On the plus side, the action sequences are done well. There are unexpected twists, and the ridiculous is thrown into the film in a way that is both believable within the logic of the movie, and is fun to boot.
In short, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is really a mixed bag. There is just so much that needs to be cut and so much else that needs to be re-written. The funniest moments were delivered by Mad Dog Maguire (Liam Cunningham: DOG SOLDIERS), but the editing around such humor was terrible, fully ruining the timing of the jokes.
Director Rob Cohen, working on the biggest movie budget of his career, directed all of his actors poorly.
The writing team of Alfred Gough and Miles Miller (SPIDER-MAN 2) have a good resume behind them and they've written wonderful comedies. The only thing I can think of here is that their work was torpedoed by the producers and Rob.
The Producers include Sean Daniel (THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY RETURNS, THE SCORPION KING) who has a record that has been going downhill since the first THE MUMMY in 1999. Bob Ducsay (VAN HELSING), and James Jacks (THE MUMMY, THE GIFT, THE MUMMY RETURNS, THE SCORPION KING) round out the production slot along with creator of the new franchise Stephen Sommers (THE MUMMY, THE SCORPION KING, VAN HELSING, THE SCORPION KING 2). That's really not much of a resume there. Mediocre comes to mind.
Mediocre also comes to mind with the new stars in this film: the ones who are set to carry on this franchise. I was uninspired by Rick and Evelyn's son, Alex (Luke Ford), but considering how everyone else fared in this, I'm giving Luke slack here. I've never seen any of his other films. The same goes for Lin (Isabella Leong: THE EYE 3). Their roles could have been performed by sock puppets and would not have been less entertaining.
Yet with all of that said, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR had its entertaining moments, and wasn't so bad as to make me threaten the theater manager into giving me a refund, something I considered after THE MUMMY RETURNS.
So Two Shriek Girls.
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