Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Michelle Yeoh
Miles Millar, Alfred Gough
I'm starting to notice how often I'm disagreeing with Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert these days.
It seems like ever since Ebert came back from his recent extended illness, our ratings have become wider and wider apart.
Take, for example, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," the third in Brendan Fraser's "The Mummy" series and without a doubt the worst.
Ebert has given the film a respectable 3-star rating. By no means a wholehearted endorsement, a 3-star rating still indicates a film worth watching.
I beg to differ.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is so incredibly awful that even those of you who failed to appreciate Harrison Ford's latest adventure will rethink your position when, or should I say if, you see this mummified cinematic experience.
"Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" takes place 13 years after the last adventure of Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife, Evelyn (Maria Bello, taking over for Rachel Weisz). While mom and dad live the quiet life in an English mansion, son Alex (Luke Ford, "Kokodo") is off on his own archaeological adventures.
Just as quickly as O'Connell can assert that he's retired from archaeology for good, he leaps back into action and heads off to Shanghai on what is again said to be one final adventure.
As awful as this film is, we can only hope this is truly the final adventure.
Before long, Rick and Evelyn join up with Evelyn's brother (John Hannah) and Alex, who has discovered the long lost Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which houses an emperor from 50 B.C. (Jet Li) and a witch (Michelle Yeoh) along with a megaforce of terra cotta warriors.
Oddly enough, not a mummy. Go figure.
Rob Cohen has been a hit-and-miss director, hitting it fairly well with "Fast and the Furious," but failing miserably with his last pic, "Stealth."
Unfortunately, Cohen makes it two in a row with "Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."
The only thing that really saves the film from being a complete debacle is Brendan Fraser's uncanny ability to sell even the dumbest scene with a high degree of convincing enthusiasm. Here, Fraser seems acutely aware that he can't possibly be convincing as Alex's father considering he doesn't look all that much older than than the lad and carries himself with far more convincing energy and enthusiasm.
Speaking of Ford, whose mostly done indie and light television work, it's hard to know whether or not he's simply in over his head here or, unlike Fraser, he simply doesn't know how to wade through the crap he's being asked to do and say. He comes off not too far removed from Hayden Christensen's dreadful "Star Wars" performances, but he's also given very little to work with in the film.
Maria Bello, on the other hand, has established herself as a quality actress and her disappointing performance here is quite surprising. I suppose that some actresses simply aren't meant to be action stars, and Bello is clearly such an actress.
Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh aren't given much to do either, but Yeoh manages to squeak out a decent performance despite it all.
Miles Millar and Alfred Gough scripted the film, and much of the blame lies in their hands with dialogue that is freakishly bad and one-liners that will make you rush back for another viewing of "Indiana Jones 4."
Tech credits for the film are generally solid, most notably the terra cotta warriors. Often, however, the special effects truly dominate the film without purpose and the film plays like a loud, boisterous potpourri of special effects with not much else to offer.
It has been quite the summer for action flicks, and one can only hope that audiences will head out for another viewing of "The Dark Knight" rather than waste their time on this flick.
If you really need a Brendan Fraser fix, skip this one and go catch "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in 3-D. While "Journey" is bubble gum cinema at best, it's a lot more entertaining than anything in "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic