Fraser redux : Reviewing The Mummy in 2014

The trouble with Brendan Fraser is, I guess, that he doesn’t take himself very seriously. At least I don’t think he did in the past but may be he does now, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the The Nut Job yet but I’m looking forward to William Tell. Fingers crossed it will be a great story, well told. The actor Fraser is so much more than a goof ball. And you know, saying so shortchanges a really good actor. People (and critics) love the The Mummy. They also criticize it. Like they really, really have to. Like bulimics eating chocolate. Like Roger Ebert who not only waxes cautious in his review of the movie but exudes a slight cold chill of disparagement with every indulgence of his gentle sense of humour, “There is within me an unslaked hunger for preposterous adventure movies…I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it.”  But never mind bulimical critics and a bulimical public. Never mind sequels that root themselves less and less in the same giving patch of soil that made the original. Let’s firmly turn our faces towards the sunshine – of “immaturity” – which nevertheless perceives difference between The Mummy 1 and The Mummy 3.

For one, it has perfectly modulated relationships between the main cast, they match each others’ steps as if the movie were a dance- in short they are a well put together team. Take Rick O’Connell and Beni, perfect partners in hate, their enmity playing out in tandem- remember the matching emphasis in the delivery of these lines:

“Beni:
Hey O’Connell! Looks to me
like I got all the horses!
O’CONNELL:
Hey Beni! Looks to me like your
on the wrong side of the river!”

 

Jonathan and Evy- one is disreputable,unfocused, comically greedy but redeemed by loyalty and affection the other is smart, passionate, furiously goal driven with an unimpeachable sense of fairness. Evy and Rick,  Evy: book-smart and romantic, Rick: street-smart and clear headed.

Perfectly defined setting. You need to milk history’s veins at suitable junctures to create good fiction and the setting here is one such point, keeping in mind the extensive interest of British and French archaeologists in the Middle East in the early 20th century.The stereotypes that have come down to us from these pursuits become a touchstone for recognition – with a slight twist- since e.g. the “bookish archaeologist” is a woman. Someone, somewhere in the movie (Heh. Probably the director. )had an endearing sense for history, which permeated through to the rest of the cast and into the film’s atmosphere. It expressed itself in Weisz’s ankle length straight skirts, French heels and her application to the “Bembridge scholars”, the Egyptian Curator’s accented conversation, the drunken RAF pilot. Our story takes place in Cairo, Egypt and plays out either in the Museum of Antiquities which has its own definite, individual atmosphere and creates a place for the modern, upper class characters like the anglicized Egyptian Curator, and (given that it’s the 1920s) the mixed race albeit more British than Egyptian brother and sister pair Evy and Jonathan who can participate in the story from this point of belonging. Lower class Egypt comes to the fore in the grimy, lecherous, sing-song voiced Warden surrounded by brutal guards, tooth decaying prisoners and a ruffianly O’Connell, slightly destroyed after days in the desert, and- right now- no longer the spruce soldier.

And finally dialogue, extremely funny writing and always well delivered, my favourite line belongs to Rachel Weisz’s character:

Evy:
I may not be an explorer, or an
adventurer, or a treasure hunter,
or a gunfighter! Mister O’Connell
But I’m proud of what I am.
O’CONNELL
And what is that?
Evelyn plops back down beside him, really drunk, she grins
and proudly lifts her head high.
EVELYN
….. am a librarian!”
Perfect! 🙂
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