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Friday Film Review: The Mummy

The Mummy (1999)
Genre: Action/Horror/Romance
Grade: B

Fun, fun, fun. This movie is just so much fun. As the writer/director and editor state in their commentary (which I advise people to watch once they’ve seen the movie once or twice), they go for shameless gags, laughs and gasps but it all works and we end up with a great way to spend 2 hours.

Ancient Egypt: Pharaoh’s mistress and chief priest are messing around and get caught. Oops. Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez) is killed but Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) vows to bring her back from the dead. Only he gets entombed alive with some nasty scarab beetles and all are lost to the sands of time for, oh, about 3000 years.

1923 Hamunaptra and the French Foreign Legion is having a showdown with Tuareg warriors at, you guessed it, the same place everybody got buried alive. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) survives, although his weasely friend Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor) skedaddles, and discovers that there’s something strange going on here.

Cut to Cairo where Evie (Rachel Weisz), an Egyptology scholar, and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) realize that the key Jonathan got off of Rick contains a map to the ancient city of the dead. Needing Rick to show them where the city actually is (though why, since they’ve got a map? I don’t know), they get him out of his necktie party at the local prison and all head off up the Nile where they run into a band of Americans lead by Beni who are also looking for the fabled treasure to be found.

Once they all arrive, everyone starts digging, hunting and searching. Too bad they find what they’re after. And then some. Imhotep is brought back to juicy “life” by an incantation Evie reads and from that point on, all hell breaks loose.

Writer/director Stephen Sommers does a great job balancing humor with horror throughout the movie. The special effects shots are used lavishly but well, never overpowering the actors and leading to some cool sequences. I find myself enjoying watching the film because, well for one thing it’s good, and for another the people involved all look like they’re having so much fun. It definitely doesn’t come across as “yeah, well I needed the paycheck.”

Brendan Fraser is a great action hero – watch the scenes where he’s fighting the soldier mummies and priest mummies at Hamunaptra and then realize that he’s doing this choreographed fight sequence all by himself since the mummies are all ILM. He’s funny, he’s dashing, he can handle two guns at once then swing a sword and he’s always there to save the day. Rachel Weisz is cute as a bug’s ear and even though she’s the one who accidentally lets loose the 7 plagues of Egypt, she’s just as determined to wrap them back up again.

John Hannah, who’s been a favorite actor of mine for years, is hilarious as Evie’s caddish and lazy brother who still manages to help defeat the soldier mummies just in the nick of time. Arnold Vosloo, once he gets slightly less juicy – you’ll see what I mean – is actually fairly hot as Imhotep – the Mummy. While Kevin O’Connor is a scream with his John Waters-esque “chick magnet mustache” and his “me first” attitude. And of course I have to give a shout out to Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay, the leader of the secret society that’s watched over the Mummy for 3000 years (yeah, right). He can throw me over his saddle anytime.

Adventure! Romance! Plagues! Mummies! The movie is what it is, a mummy movie, but it’s done amazingly well and with style and panache. On the fourth time through, start watching the GCI and ILM mummy shots because the people behind them had fun with them as well as doing them well. Listen to the commentaries – which are just like I like them, amusing, pertinent and informative – to catch all the mistakes and behind the scenes stories. But most of all, just sit back and enjoy it.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

39 Comments

  1. cate
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 04:46:03

    I lovit …infinity ! My all time fave creature feature ! At no time does Sommers put a foot wrong with this film (Which is why Van Helsing was such a huge disappointment!).
    The casting is perfection, John Hannah is outstanding,& does his usual job of scene stealing everytime he’s on screen.
    Brendan Fraser is super as THE hero,& is more than matched by the wonderful Rachel Weiss.
    This is -for me-the perfect popcorn pleasure. A frothy frightfest, with Arnold Vosloo rocking as a very sympathetic mummy.
    The sequel, whilst not quite as good is still a must-see…….But the 3rd one…Mr Sommers. What were you thinking ?
    Great great choice Jayne… I know what I’ll be watching this weekend

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  2. Sarah Morgan
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 05:08:12

    This is one of my favourite films. It's a perfect balance of humour, adventure, tension and emotion. Evie is a delicious mixture of clumsy innocence and enthusiastic academic. There are so many memorable scenes – apart from the obvious one where she destroys the library and says ‘oops', – I love the one where they're trapped on the burning boat and Buff Brendan demands ‘Can you swim?' and she, affronted, says ‘if the occasion calls for it' to which he replies ‘trust me, it calls for it' and promptly drops her in the water from a great height. I also love the ‘I am a librarian' scene. To be honest I don't think there are many scenes I don't love.
    John Hannah's comic timing is perfect and I'm in complete agreement about the scorch factor of the gorgeous Oded Fehr. I presume the rest of the audience felt the same way because he was given a more significant role in the second movie.
    Thanks for reviewing this film. Like Cate, now I know what our family Friday night viewing will be….

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  3. Marcella
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 05:11:28

    O yes, this movie has it all!

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  4. Julie
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 05:24:56

    The curator “accidentally” burns off the part of the map that has Hamunaptra, so Rick is saved from the noose to lead the way there. :D I love the bargaining scene between Evie and the prison warden–the cuts to Rick strangling are perfectly timed♥.

    Evie’s just so adorably spunky! Her sarcastic “Oh that’s comforting” retort and drunken librarian declaration rank in my top five moments. Ahh, I’ll have to rewatch this lovely movie this weekend…

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  5. Sandy James
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 05:34:44

    Such a great pick, Jayne! As you said, this movie has it all!

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  6. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 06:46:31

    @Julie: You’re right. I had forgotten the curator burning part of the map. Evie is such a sassy little thang.

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  7. Maria Zannini
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 06:50:43

    A favorite at my house. I especially like how Rick and Evie fall in love and the little missteps along the way. Like when they’re at a campfire and Rick tries to kiss Evie.

    My husband swears that happened with us. :lol:

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  8. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 06:50:49

    @Sarah Morgan: Oh, those are all great scenes you mentioned. This movie has so many. Like when Jonathan gets caught outside in Cairo with the angry villagers with pitchforks and he mimes being one of them until he can make his escape. “Imhotep! Imhotep!”

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  9. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 06:56:19

    @cate: See! I told you I wasn’t reviewing “Darby O’Gill.”

    I agree that the sequel is good but it mainly seemed a rehash of the first movie. Except for the mummy fight on the double decker bus in London. Now that was good. The third one? Ugh, what a crock. I can see why Rachel Weisz bailed on it.

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  10. Dawn
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 07:48:26

    Can anyone read Mr. Impossible without seeing Brendon Fraser as Rupert Carsington? I have been wanting to rewatch this movie ever since I reread that book.

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  11. Carole & Chewy
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 09:27:18

    I’ve had a long life with the mummy starting with watching the first one that was made in 1932. It terrified me for YEARS. But this one (and it’s sequel)repaired all the damage – I own it in VHS and DVD,at least two of each, just in case something happens to one of them! LOVE Oded Fehr…

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  12. Bonnie Dee
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 09:27:21

    Double agree on the sequel being ho-hum and the third painfully unwatchable. Both of the latter films tried too hard. Like many action adventure movies they had to pile on just too much. I really felt this in Prince of Persia. I enjoyed it most of the way through until the end where they tried to top everything that went before. Finally I was just dozing and waiting for the climax to be over. Hm, I see a sex analogy in there somewhere.

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  13. cate
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 09:32:22

    @Jayne:
    Virtual Raspberry at ya ! Actually, I thought you might’ve been reviewing Time Line, which although critically panned, & has bigger holes than the Titanic through it, still manages to be a cracking B movie pleasure.
    And, my fave Mummy scene, BF to RW “Are you all right ?” JH answers “I’m fine thanks”, utterly oblivious to romantic undercurrents.
    BTW Jayne, if you haven’t already, try to get your hands on the original Rebus series with John Hannah. He’s a bit young for the role, & Ken Stott does make the better Rebus, but they’re good viewing anyway.

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  14. Theresa Romain
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 09:41:45

    Yay! I love this review, and this movie. Jayne, I completely agree with you — it’s just so much fun. This is, I think, the only movie in my life I ever watched twice in a row. (I was younger then and had more free time. But still.)

    Once you see it a few times (or a lot) you notice all kinds of funny details. Like the Americans when they open the chest: “Curse my ass!” No, dude, you really don’t want that. I also love the character of Evie –she’s determined, but not in a TSTL way, and her intelligence saves everyone. And Rick always appreciates her for that. Good, good stuff.

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  15. Zoe Archer
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:04:44

    Oh, no. Not high adventure stories in exotic places. Can’t stand that.

    /sarcasm

    High adventure FTW! Yaaaaaay!

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  16. Maddie
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:17:16

    I love this too and have both 1 and 2 didn’t even bother to pick up the 3rd one.

    I thought the chemistry between Evie and Rick was great and funny.

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  17. Maili
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:22:52

    Love this film! One of my all-time favourite drunk scenes is the “Eve the drunk librarian makes a declaration” scene.

    (Not that keen on the sequel. As for the third? Holy moly. I watched it twice and I *still* can’t remember anything about it. Actually, I can’t believe I watched it twice.)

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  18. Julia Rachel Barrett
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:54:18

    It’s campy fun, Brendan Fraser is hilarious and so hot, the movie introduced me to Rachel Weisz, and we got to meet the amazing super-hottie, Israeli actor, Oded Fehr! Not to mention that once ‘the mummy’ is reconstituted, he’s incredible looking, has a great body (Arnold Vosloo) and I feel sorry for him – all he wants is true love….

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  19. Danielle Monsch
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 11:06:36

    When this movie first came out, I was disappointed – I was hoping for something more in line with the original, a gothic horror/romance (yes, I am a huge fan of the original 30′s monster movies).

    I did eventually watch it and must totally agree, the movie is a lot of fun, well worth the watch. Still, I do hope that eventually a version more in line with the original will be made. Sigh, I do miss those dark romances, I can’t wait until they start coming back.

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  20. Heather Snow
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 11:19:05

    What a fabulously fantastic movie! One of my favorites…so many great scenes, great lines and great characters that you can’t possibly pick the best one.

    Thanks for reminding me how much I love this movie…I will most certainly have to dig it out of the DVD case and watch it again soon. (and try to forget that my love of this movie led me to buy the blueRay versiono of the third, unseen. What a waste of money!!!).

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  21. rigmarole
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 13:13:38

    I adore this movie and the first sequel and always rewatch them on rainy days. Jonathan/Ardeth is my not-guilty-at-all pleasure.

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  22. srs
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 16:04:21

    I really enjoy this movie and am incapable of changing the channel if I stumble on it while watching tv (and it is always on tv). I have a whole spiel about how Brandon Fraser is underrated as an actor, and almost always elevates any B move he’s in to a solid B+, with The Mummy as my Exhibit A.

    That said, I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the casual racism pervasive throughout the movie. It has been a few years since I’ve seen it, but I remember pretty much all the Muslim/Arab characters being stock types without nuance or spineless cowards played for comic effect. There is also the issue of the white man as saviour. I get that this is a campily fun popcorn movie that is best when not overanalysed and I’m able to enjoy it despite the causal racism much the same way I’m able to enjoy The Grand Sophie despite the casual anti-semitism. I am, however, a little surprised that the DA community, which is usually so quick to pick up on race and gender issues in pop-culture, has embraced the movie so uncritically.

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  23. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:02:12

    @Theresa Romain:

    I also love the character of Evie -she's determined, but not in a TSTL way, and her intelligence saves everyone. And Rick always appreciates her for that. Good, good stuff.

    Yes to all this. She’s intelligent and the movie counts on that. Just about everybody, in fact, eventually counts on it.

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  24. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:05:24

    @Heather Snow:

    (and try to forget that my love of this movie led me to buy the blueRay versiono of the third, unseen. What a waste of money!!!).

    Oooh, ouch. I’ve also learned through hard experience never to buy a movie sight unseen. Unless it’s in the dollar bin. And bluRay too? That really hurts.

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  25. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:07:42

    @Maili: You watched the third one twice?! What were you thinking? But, thinking a bit more on it, it could be a fun movie to watch after a glass or three of vino…

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  26. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:10:39

    @Julia Rachel Barrett: I do end up kinda sorta feeling sorry for Imhotep. He’s just a man in lurve trying to get his woman back. If he wasn’t plundering for body parts and unleashing plagues, I’d be cheering him on.

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  27. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:20:09

    @Danielle Monsch: I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original except for clips here and there. Must put this in the Netflix queue.

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  28. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:22:37

    @cate: Okay, all of the above are now in the Netflix queue. I hope this doesn’t ruin Gerard Butler for me… ;)

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  29. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:24:52

    @srs:

    I get that this is a campily fun popcorn movie that is best when not overanalysed and I'm able to enjoy it despite the causal racism much the same way I'm able to enjoy The Grand Sophie despite the casual anti-semitism.

    This.

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  30. cate
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:30:03

    Jayne, you’re an American NOTHING spoils Gerard Butler for you chaps….not even RocknRolla !

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  31. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:36:15

    @cate: LOL. Is Guy Ritchie capable of doing any movie that isn’t centered on London gangsters or Madonna?

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  32. Maili
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 18:50:27

    @srs: Heh! I did wonder whether I should mention it in my previous response, but decided against it because I felt it was too heavy for a light-weight film. Bad move? I don’t know.

    Casual racism exists in almost all contemporary adventure films including Indiana Jones, Romancing the Nile, National Treasure, etc. I learnt to ignore this element because it seems to be part of the ‘campy adventure film’ template.

    I still have mixed feelings, to be honest. Some days I think “That’s not on” and other days, “Screw it, I just want some cheesiness.” Bad, I know.

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  33. Connie
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 03:22:11

    Wow! The Mummy~ how do you choose your movies Jayne? A lot of things work really well for this movie, but definitely the actors seem to portray the characters really well. I am a big fan of Rachel Weisz and it’s too bad I haven’t seen more films of hers aside from the Constant Gardener (amazing btw). I really felt like this film brought back the fun in these adventure films like how Indiana Jones used to be. Humorous, exciting and big happy ending all rolled into one. I like the actors so much that I even like the sequel though it is a bit contrived (I refuse to lump the third one into the same group). Plus Rachel Weisz got really pretty in the second film which was great. The kid was a bit annoying though. This is entertainment. The boyfriend likes to watch films that gets great reviews and often incite some/lots of apprehension on my part…I just like fun films.

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  34. cate
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 03:57:46

    @Jayne:
    Sherlock Holmes !

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  35. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 08:55:05

    @Connie:

    Wow! The Mummy~ how do you choose your movies Jayne? I just like fun films.

    I like fun films too. I usually choose a film that’s a favorite or perhaps one I’ve just watched through Netflix that I think enough of and think other people might like too. Lots of new-to-me ones have come from recs made here.

    I have oodles of older films on VHS tapes from years of watching AMC and TCM and using Netflix or youtube helps me try ones I might not otherwise.

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  36. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 08:56:47

    @cate: Well, okay. But I still prefer “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” to “RocknRolla.”

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  37. cate
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 15:42:11

    @Jayne:
    Lock,Stock’s good, but Snatch is better

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  38. Jaci Burton
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 09:02:50

    I love this movie, and like @srs said, I’m incapable of changing the channel if I stumble upon it on TV. Great action adventure romance. Brendan Fraser, Oded Fehr and Arnold Vosloo were all great. Plus Rachel Weiss just rocked it as a spunky heroine.

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  39. Angelia Sparrow
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 08:07:43

    I do love this film. The hotness level was completely exceeded for me. The sequel worked for me and I didn’t even bother with third. When you cut the three primary reasons I would go see it, leaving only 1/4 of the hotness (Brendan Fraiser is cutie, but he reminds me of a puppy), I’m outta there.

    Unfortunately, this is not on my “Watch this year” list. I’ll get my Fehr fix from old TV.

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