Case Number 14055


Universal // 1999 // 126 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // July 14th, 2008

The Charge

Uncover the secret. Unlock the legend. Unleash the power.

Opening Statement

Evelyn: "You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance."
Beni: "They do?"

Facts of the Case

1. There's this Indiana Jones-type guy named Rick (Brendan Fraser, Crash). He is an adventurer. He is captured by some not-very-nice people in the middle east.
2. Rick is rescued by a librarian (Rachel Weisz, Constantine) and her snooty brother (John Hannah, The Hurricane).
3. All three of these good folks are looking for the lost city of Hamunaptra.
4. There are also some not-so-friendly folks looking for the lost city of Hamunaptra.
5. There is a very evil mummy buried in the lost city of Hamunaptra.
6. Somebody accidentally wakes the mummy up from the dead.
7. Oh, dear.

The Evidence

Once upon a time, director Stephen Sommers was known as a director of B-level adventure movies like The Jungle Book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Deep Rising. That all changed when The Mummy came along. What could have been another simple B-level adventure turned into an enormous box office success and inspired Sommers to direct such bloated and expensive CGI-fests as The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing. Though I'm no fan of those two headache-inducing blockbusters, The Mummy is still holding up pretty well after nine years.

While Sommers' recent work has featured a lot of spectacle for the sake of spectacle, The Mummy offers some exciting and enjoyable special effects that work in the service of an entertaining plot. The Mummy is a funny, exciting adventure movie that does just about everything you'd want an adventure movie to do. No, it never reaches the giddy heights of excitement of the Indiana Jones films that inspired it, but it's a good summer blockbuster. It's a good kind of silly fun, a film that recognizes it is dealing with plenty of action movie clichés and ridiculous hocus pocus. On the surface, it's no better than the average Big Dumb Summer Movie. However, there's a world of difference between films that know they are Big Dumb Summer Movies and those that don't. The Mummy is the former.

The film is allegedly based on the 1932 film The Mummy, but the only connection between this film and that one is that each does indeed contain a mummy. No, the film uses the Indiana Jones movies as a starting point, shamelessly borrowing moments and elements from all three Indy films. There's a scene on a boat that is almost an exact replica of the tavern scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A group of zealots trying to protect the secret of the Mummy very much resemble a similar group trying to protect the holy grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Much of the set design resembles parts of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Instead of snakes, creepy-crawlies, or rats, we get deadly Scarab beetles. You get the idea.

There is very little originality in The Mummy, but the cheerfulness with which this stolen stew is created is infectious. The cast plays everything with such gung-ho enthusiasm that it's hard not to get caught up in the spirit of things. Brendan Fraser is the ideal hero for this sort of movie. Most actors would be embarrassed at having to deliver Fraser's dialogue, which is almost entirely comprised of phrases that come in handy during the theatrical trailer. Examples: "Here we go again!" "This just keeps getting better and better!" "Mummies...I hate mummies." However, Fraser delivers all of this nonsense with such enthusiastic joy, wholeheartedly embracing the film's hokey and artificial nature. Rachel Weisz also has a lot of fun as the loopy love interest. She is endearing enough to win the heart of both Fraser and The Mummy, which is saying something. John Hannah plays Weisz's snotty brother, and gets to stand off to the side making smart remarks about everyone. The rest of the cast is comprised of assorted Americans, Egyptians, and Various Odd Individuals who all exist to be killed in some interesting way.

The Mummy never tires of finding new ways to kill people. One of my favorite scenes involves a nasty little bug doing a particularly startling thing to a poor supporting character. Say what you like about the goofiness of this movie, I now officially have an unnatural fear of beetles. There are also lovely little scenes involving ancient acid, booby traps, sandstorms, and of course the usual soul-sucking business that always plays a part in mummy movies. And, of course, they saved the best of these semi-graphic little moments for last, as one particularly nasty little fellow does indeed get his comeuppance.I have to say that I am quite impressed by this new DVD transfer. This is easily the best The Mummy has ever looked on DVD. The print is clean, clear, and positively vibrant. It's undoubtedly inferior to whatever the Blu-ray version has to offer, but this is about as good as it gets for standard DVD at the moment. The sound is also pretty sensational, with Jerry Goldsmith's gloriously entertaining score being given a very strong boost.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I could start making general complaints here about how illogical and ridiculous the movie is, but that would really be a little pointless, wouldn't it? You know what you're getting with this movie, and you can either accept it for what it is or find a better way to spend your time. However, I must point out that this new release is a pretty weak double-dip. Sure, the transfer is stronger, but there's not a lot of new stuff in the special features department. The only new items are a few rather brief featurettes, which only feel like crumbs that have fallen off the bigger and better 50-minute documentary that was included on the previous release. The three commentary tracks are also ported over from the previous DVD. The features here are pretty solid in and of themselves, but there's not enough incentive for those who all ready own The Mummy to upgrade to this particular version.

Closing Statement

Imhotep! Imhotep! Imhotep!

The Verdict

Though one is tempted to condemn this film for the poor sequels it inspired, The Mummy still works quite well as a self-contained piece of popcorn entertainment. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 99
Audio: 99
Extras: 80
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 126 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by Stephen Sommers & Bob Duncan
* Commentary by Brendan Fraser
* Commentary by Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Conner & Arnold Vosloo
* The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek
* Digital Copy
* An Army to Rule the World - Part 1
* Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy
* Visual and Special Effects Formation
* Building a Better Mummy
* Storyboard to Final Film Comparison
* Deleted Scenes

* IMDb

* Original DVD Verdict Review