Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee are spinning in their graves and Brendan Fraser is back in the cultural conversation.
Such is the power of the miserable new The Mummy, a franchise non-starter meant to revive Universal’s classic monsters that’s instead a lesson in ineptitude and Tom Cruise’s sadly fading stardom.
Considering the hodgepodge of talent behind the scenes and the studio’s amnesia surrounding the success of the terrific Fraser-led 1999 adventure of the same name, it’s no wonder the movie is a mess.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, he of the once-formidable writing team with Roberto Orci (Mission: Impossible III; Star Trek) whose lone prior feature credit is the 2012 Chris Pine/Elizabeth Banks dramedy People Like Us, this Mummy is on shaky ground from the start.
As grave robbers Nick Morton (Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) attempt their latest caper and stumble upon an ancient tomb, failed jokes come fast and don’t stop courtesy of a lackadaisical screenplay by the usually dependable David Koepp, the formerly mighty Christopher McQuarrie and character actor Dylan Kussman.
Archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) attempts to investigate the burial site for historical purposes, but her professionalism is no match for the two con artist doofuses and their greedy ways, which result in the unearthing of a coffin never meant to be found.
Also part of the deal are Nick’s frequent visions from resurrected mummified princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who’s out to rule the world after a foiled ceremony — the flashback to which is practically the film’s lone saving grace — that would have given the god Set human form and made her his everlasting bride.
Chosen as the new vessel, Nick interprets these supernatural messages with his eyes glazed and mouth agape, an incredibly awkward look for Cruise that yields a healthy amount of unintentional laughs as Kurtzman repeatedly lingers on it for far too long.
Receiving significantly less attention is The Mummy’s script, oversight that results in accidental ambiguity surrounding Nick’s apparent immortality. One minute he emerges from a plane crash without a scratch on him, the next he’s nearly having his ribs removed for a human barbecue by the alter ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe, thoroughly embarrassing himself). Some clarity would be nice and the same goes for precisely what genre in which the filmmakers think they’re working.
The movie’s lack of purposeful humor has already been noted, but that doesn’t keep all involved from trying to earn laughs, namely an excruciating Johnson once he reappears as an undead, semi-spectral entity. Regarding the projet's action potential, Kurtzman and an overmatched special effects crew are clumsy at executing what seem like slam dunks, but it’s the director’s inability to turn numerous suspense-rich moments into quality, PG-13 jumps that’s truly infuriating.
And while the dull finale gives the world the original concept of Templar zombies, it also produces a ridiculous final twist that prompted the young man two seats over to exclaim, “That’s just wrong,” and storm out with five minutes to go. That he lasted that long is somewhat of a miracle.
Grade: D. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Universal Pictures)