Film Friday: ‘The Mummy 3’ & ‘Swing Vote’

by W. Andrew Powell

The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor

The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor

Like a scene from a Monty Python sketch, this week’s top film seems to beg the line: “Bring out your dead.” The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor not only has a 2000 year old guy coming back to life, but on top of that, the film is also getting the kind of reviews that are fit for the crypt. Reviews for the other big new arrival this week, Swing Vote, suggests it’s oddly a not-bad alternative, but over all of the reviews, the documentary American Teen may actually be your best bet.

The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor
Call it mixed feelings, but I’m both excited and dismayed by the new Mummy sequel. On the negative side, previous Mummy director Stephen Sommers has stepped aside to let a new director take the helm, and the replacement director is Rob Cohen, the man responsible for bad movies like Stealth and The Fast and the Furious. Maybe the worst part of all, Rachel Weisz has also stepped aside, letting another actress step in as Brendan Fraser‘s main squeeze.

All this bodes ill in my books, but I will admit the story is not without its charm. Jet Li plays the evil Han Emperor, Maria Bello co-stars, and Spider-Man 2 scribes Alfred Gough and Miles Millar wrote the script. (Not to mention that Cohen gets at least some of my adoration for directing Dragonheart a number of years ago.)

But with The Dark Knight still holding a firm grip on the box office, will the return of mummy-fighter Rick O’Connell (Fraser) be that big a deal?

As the title already suggests, this time out O’Connell, his wife (Bello), and son (Luke Ford) are in China when they mistakenly awake the Dragon Emperor and his army of terra cotta soldiers. After being cursed 2000 years ago by a sorceress, the Emperor has his eyes set on restoring his army so he can plot world domination, and apparently only the O’Connell clan can stop him.

“Tiresome and messy, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor borrows mightily from the Indiana Jones franchise and various martial-arts films, but it doesn’t do what those films did nearly as well,” Jane Horwitz of the Washington Post said in her review. While Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer blamed the film for ripping one-liners “from a copy of Indiana Jones for Dummies.”

Even though most of the reviews suggest the same thing, The Mummy franchise has a lot of weight behind it and could still bring out just enough fans topple the Dark Knight‘s box office dominance. If you only want to see something new, with a lot of special effects, this movie may be enough for you, but otherwise I’d highly recommend something else.

Swing Vote
Receiving surprisingly better reviews this week, Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, your average apathetic American who ends up with the only vote that matters in the election for the next President of the United States. With his daughter by his side, Bud must make the final choice for the entire country, while he also looks at his life and the loser he has become.

Madeline Carroll plays the role of Bud’s daughter, Molly, while Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper star as the two presidential candidates.

Looking at a wide range of critics, Swing Vote received surprisingly positive reviews from the most influential writers, but scored only marginally higher than The Mummy if you look at a wider number of reviews. “As in so many essentially childish movies, it’s an actual child who’s always the smartest pants in the room,” Globe and Mail critic Rick Groen wrote. But Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a genial comedy, but it has significant undertones. Like some of Frank Capra’s pictures.”

American Teen
Saving the best for last, American Teen is the Sundance hit documentary about four teens and their lives during their last year of school in a small town. Covering the usual stereotypes, the film follows a jock, the popular girl, the artsy girl and a geek in a traditional, Christian, and highly conservative town.

Called a modern-day Breakfast Club, but with real kids, the film covers every angle in their lives and looks at the pressures of growing up.

Most reviews have a lot of praise for the film, which critics say is both odd and insightful, but also very honest. “The players are timelessly familiar in American Teen,” Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote. “But filmmaker Nanette Burstein tells their stories with a distinctly 21st-century pop and audacity that makes this latest version of Fast Times at My So-Called Happy Days High a timely pleasure.”

Coming to theatres next week:
Pineapple Express
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

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