Where’s the Jokes, Mummy Men?
Do mummies bring out the best or worst in Brendan Fraser, playing explorer Rich O’Connell? They have ensured the actor has a vigorous daily workout. Yet something’s snagged the wrappings of “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”
Starting with an Indiana Jones archeologist dig into an ancient tomb of a would be Chinese emperor, O’Connell’s son (Luke Ford) opens the sealed vault unaware his employer has nefarious motives.
An array of requisite kung-fun, swashbuckling, one-on-one sword and fist battles, hidden traps in the tomb chambers and drenching avalanches maintain nearly continuous scenes of action and danger. Toss in a few mythical creatures — abominable snowmen, dragons, legions of undead.
Mummy movies demand more than an Indiana Jones styled family of treasure seeking archeologists. They mandate integrating a sly, slightly campy ‘making fun of itself’ element to legitimize the mystics, dark arts and resurrections thrown nonchalantly into a ‘50s landscape.
Give director Rob Cohen a high mark for shredding gender equal action and cool (not awesome) effects. Yet, the package does not smoothly meld. It’s would be flippant chemistry cannot rise past the deadpanning of tossed and bobbled one-liners. As snowmen, a fire breathing dragon/mummy and thousands of ‘undead’ clash, Mrs. O’Connell (Maria Bello) needs a more frothy, defiant and jaded line than, “Do you have any regrets?”
But the mangled wrapping comes from casting. O’Connell’s son, Alex (Luke Ford), who’s ironically in love with the ultimate ‘cougar’ (Isabella Leong) looks too close in age to dad. Mom (Bello), meanwhile, struggles with timing on wannabe one liners. They defuse to gain a chuckle, but inhibit the film’s flow rather than seamlessly slipping past the demanding snowy journey to the fabled Shangri-La.
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