It's been reported that the producers of "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" wanted to head the profitable but mediocre franchise in a whole new direction. Turns out they meant Asia. This third "Mummy" movie takes us on a guided tour of the catacombs of ancient China and the peaks of the Himalayas, with a pit stop in postwar Shanghai. Anyone looking for a terrific summer popcorn movie should not hop on board.
Brendan Fraser is once again the intrepid Rick O'Connell, moviedom's low-rent answer to Indiana Jones. His wife is played by new-to-the-series Maria Bello, instead, alas, of Rachel Weisz. Her sometime British accent appears to trouble her more than the marauding mummies – technically they're terra-cotta soldiers – who awaken from a 2,000-year-old spell cast upon them by a double-crossed sorceress (Michelle Yeoh, who must have felt double-crossed by her skimpy screen time).
The O'Connells are outfitted with a swashbuckling son, Alex (Luke Ford), who looks to be about 18. Since Fraser doesn't look a day over 35, this is quite a stretch. This pandering to the youth market made more sense in the latest Indiana Jones movie, with its casting of Shia LaBeouf opposite the 60-plus Harrison Ford. Here it just seems freakish.
Even more so is the way director Rob Cohen wastes the considerable talents of the great martial-arts action star Jet Li, who plays the resurrected Chinese Emperor – the Mummy of Mummies – and barely gets to throw a single roundhouse punch. Half the time he's just a glorified special effect. Why cast Jet Li and then turn him into a CGI grotesque?
There is one bit of good news. For all you abominable snowman fans out there, "The Mummy" is filled with yetis. And, boy, are they ever angry. Grade C- (Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence.)