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Tom Cruise Gives ‘The Mummy’ The 'Mission: Impossible’ Treatment With Mixed Results

The Dark Universe franchise is off to a rocky start. (Love the sets, though.)

 

The Mummy (PG13)

Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a mercenary-cum-tomb raider who mistakenly wakes up a cursed Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella) from her centuries-old slumber/captivity. You know what happens next: Lots of screaming, running and exploding public property that require tons of paint job and a crap load of screen doors. 

                This creature feature — a remake of the 1932 horror classic starring Boris Karloff — is some kind of a monster, Frankenstein’s Monster to be precise — an oversized ogre put together in a lab with body parts from other corpses. Sadly, what becomes of this unholy marriage of alchemy and biology is uneven, unwieldy and inarticulate.

                As an action flick, The Mummy plays like a lesser Mission: Impossible sequel set in the supernatural realm, where Morton can easily be passed off as indomitable super-spy Ethan Hunt (maybe Morton is an undercover alias used by Hunt?). In fact, the highly-publicised Zero-G plane crash scene feels like a continuation of that hanging-onto-an-Airbus-400 stunt in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. What’s missing is the iconic ‘Mission Impossible’ theme to get the adrenaline pumping. (Hey, geeks, that’s your YouTube project for the week — recut that sequence.)

                As a horror yarn, however, it isn‘t very scary. At least, I don’t remember being scared. As the titular villain, Boutella, who was such a delightful albeit diabolical presence in Kingsman: The Secret Service, is a little underwhelming: She comes across like a souped-up cosplayer lost in a theme park, and I say with that affection, because the mind-boggling sets truly deserved to be made into amusement park attractions.

                Elsewhere, the lovely Annabelle Wallis has the thankless role of the nondescript love interest (involved in a backstory that feels like an after-thought), while Russell Crowe’s Dr Henry Jekyll looks like the host of a late-night paranormal talk show (I’ll watch that!).

                Thank goodness there’s New Girl’s Jake Johnson, showing up once in a while to supply much-needed moments of levity as Morton’s grumbling sidekick. As far as gleeful escapist fun is concerned, this Mummy doesn’t come anywhere close to the 1999 reboot with Brendan Fraser.

                In the end, you’d admire parts of The Mummy, but not all of it; it's neither terrific nor terrible, more of a CV filler than a thriller for the Cruiser. But as the first chapter of the Dark Universe franchise — a series of interconnected movies featuring other Universal Monsters — it’s a stumbling start. The next one — Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein (due 2019), with Javier Bardem — has a lot of slack to pick up. (**1/2)

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