Back in the day I gave Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a C. I originally took some heat, but since then cooler heads have prevailed and now you can't cross the street without someone mentioning that they hated Indy too. Heck, even Dre will admit that he only remembers monkeys and nuclear fridges from the film he once held so dear. I get it. Bright lights, big sounds, and grain liquor can occasionally throw off an otherwise sensible fellow. No harm, no foul. I bring this up only to point out the one happy fact about The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: even though it's fairly dumb it's still better than Indy. Score! Use that on the poster, fellas. No? You sticking with Gene Shalit? Fair enough. May his mustache preserve you.
Anyway, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has one huge thing going for it. That "thing" is that it's aware of the rules. It creates tension. Yet, it's out of thin air and makes up plot points to get from scene to scene but it doesn't make monkeys the central attraction. There are other parallels. Mummy 3 has a terrible accent too, because Maria Bello is to Rachel Weisz as I am to Muhammad Ali.
The Mummy: TotDE also has that "cartoon violence" feel with the tacit understanding that everything will work out just fine. The only difference is the pedigree. Indy was set up in the real-life archaeological world with elements of the fantastic interspersed. Mummy is set up in the made-up archaeological world with fantastic elements carrying the entire plot. So then, we must give Mummy much more leeway when it comes to idiotic points. Fine. Let's do that. There, that's done.
But let's get away from Indy and get down to some "serious" criticism. You've waited this long. Let's first tackle Luke Ford, the son of Fraser and Bello, first. I don't know whether to blame the script or him -- but either way the whole subplot of "healing the father-son relationship" hurts me like fire. It's painful. But the whole Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote aspect of this film was done well in the first two editions and done well enough so that you don't black out in this one.
As for Chinese history and culture ... well, everything takes a header. It doesn't really matter that the movie takes place in Shanghai. They really do make up things like "Well, he'll be immortal if he gets to that cave, EXCEPT for if we stab him with this KNIFE!" (cut to shot of knife in Brendan Fraser's meaty paw). But it has some nice action, and it's fine enough for a summer actioner.
Just found this quote: "Rachel Weisz announced that she will not be reprising her role of Evelyn due to different interests with the screenplay."
Yes, I can see her point.
But The Mummy has to be considered slightly better than average because it's not actively offensive. You might feel dumber for having watched it but you'll never get the sense that they think they are fooling you. The film has simple goals and it meets them. Fine for a matinée, fine for a family, fine to get us into early August. Not fine up against real movies with plots, and not good enough to rave about afterwards. Brendan Fraser continues his epic journey on the vanilla highway and Rachel Weisz proves that she's worth at least a letter grade to any film she appears in. Other than that, this one is really slippery. There's not much either way to latch on to ... unless of course you're passing the grain alcohol around while those bright lights assault your senses. Then I suppose this would be a hell of a good time.