" The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is bleh, though it's likely to click with the public, given the enormous profitability of the first two in the recent "Mummy" cycle. Certainly Brendan Fraser's granite-jawed, goofily satiric take on a generic serial archetype, the tomb-raiding wiseacre, didn't hurt. Nor did Rachel Weisz simply showing up and being there, pulling laughs out of thin air and reminding everybody else that there's a trick to acting even in a soulless evocation of another era. It's called style.
Cohen has some fine and varied vistas at his disposal, thanks to the Chinese location work. But be they back-lot and urban or green-screen and rural, the action scenes grind on forever. Neither of the film's two credited editors can make much visual sense out of what's happening. There's a moment when Fraser is playing catch with himself with the special magic "eye of Shangri-La" diamond, which holds the key to something or other, and he's not doing anything a reasonably agile performer couldn't pull off in a single take. Yet the bit's hacked up into four or five teeny little shots that wreck the rhythm. Are you telling me a 21st Century audience can't sit still for 7 seconds without a cut? And by the way: You kids get offa my lawn!
The film has one objective: to smack its audience in the face with fleeting, competing wows, over and over. Characters both digitized and human are constantly getting kicked in the head, or beheaded. The bone-crunching sound effects are cranked up to the glory-day levels of Sensurround. Except it's Sensurround—and KickintheFace—without a breather.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for adventure action, violence).
Running time: 1:54
Opening: 12:01 a.m. Friday
Starring: Brendan Fraser (Rick O'Connell); Jet Li (Emperor); Maria Bello (Evelyn O'Connell); John Hannah (Jonathan Carnahan); Michelle Yeoh (Zi Yuan)
Directed by: Rob Cohen; written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar; photographed by Simon Duggan; edited by Joel Negron and Kelly Matsumoto; music by Randy Edelman; production design by Nigel Phelps; produced by Sean Daniel, James Jacks, Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay. A Universal Pictures release.