The Mummy
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stephen Sommers
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Universal)

Grade: B

So sue me: it's fun. After several consecutive years of lumbering, leaden, self-important summer event movies, it's refreshing to find one that's anachronistically effervescent, 99 & 44/100% pretension-free -- arduously striving to dazzle, yes, via the requisite parade of digital wizardry, but also airily hoping to delight. It's no coincidence that our hero (Fraser, suitably dashing and self-deprecating) summarizes his mission at one point as "rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world": the entire movie is endearingly retro-dorky (albeit never completely without a faint late-millennial smirk), from the pseudo-ponderous opening narration to the ridiculously florid font in which the Egyptians' subtitles are printed to Weisz's superearnest, goggle-eyed breathiness. "Yes, yes, we all know the story," impatiently gripes one character at a patch of necessary exposition, before proceeding to wearily relate the relevant details anyway, expressly for our benefit. What others apparently perceive as flaws, I choose -- perhaps willfully, I'll concede at once -- to interpret as affection for the rather creaky charms of the Universal horror/adventure classics of six decades past, the original 1932 Mummy included. I'm not convinced that colonialism and racism ought necessarily to come with this particular territory -- Kevin J. O'Connor's conniving, back-biting Arab lackey is a bit unfortunate, to say the least -- and Sommers can't remotely match the narrative economy and visual brio of his obvious model, Raiders of the Lost Ark...but, then, neither could Spielberg himself, for that matter, in two subsequent attempts. (I'll take this baby over Temple of Doom in a heartbeat; I might have to flip a coin w/r/t Last Crusade.) The bottom line, folks, is simply this: make a movie in which the plucky heroine, brow furrowed in concentration, recites nonsense words from a tome as thick as a 7200/75 Power Mac*, only to be interrupted by a horrified, panicky shout of "NO! DON'T READ FROM THE BOOK!!!!", and I'll settle into my seat, grinning like the idiot you've long suspected that I am. Not satisfied? Go get a writ.

* (I needed a simile in a hurry, and it was sitting right there on my desk, so what the hey, you know?)