Junkfood Cinema: ‘The Mummy’ Gets Sand on Everything

By  · Published on July 29th, 2011

Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema…looks like I’ve got all the horses. Here at JFC we like to look back over the vast expanse of cinematic history and revisit a particular film which may be low on technical filmmaking merits but which always delivers the goods when it comes to the “can you eat popcorn to this” meter. The answer to that scientific device’s inherent query is, in this case, a resounding hell yes.

As we always do, I’ll start by eviscerating my chosen film, stabbing it to death with a golden dagger. But have no fear! After that, I will return with a human sacrifice and the book of the dead to lovingly resurrect the film and stroke her jet black hair. As if this won’t be enough for you already fragile state of mind, I’ll propose a junkfood pairing that will delight your tastebuds as your heart screams for mercy.

As you may have guessed from the title, this week’s selection is The Mummy!

What makes it bad?

Let’s begin at the beginning shall we? Now, I get it. Imhotep screwed the Pharaoh’s mistress, and that’s generally frowned upon. So it’s understandable that Pharaoh would be pissed. Punishment makes sense, even death in this case. But to use a curse that you know would give him supernatural power and invincibility if he were ever uncovered? Maybe you just stab him in the heart instead. Why even risk it? Just kill him and be done with it. Then the Magi wouldn’t have to watch over his tomb for thousands of years.

While the CG was pretty damn impressive in 1999, it’s a bit dated by today’s standards, though not nearly as bad as some other films from that time. Some of the CG shots hold up much better than others. Still, the CG just adds to the cheese and schlock that’s on ample display throughout the film. In addition, there’s some bad day-for-night shot scenes that stick out like a sore thumb.

When the warden goes off on his own and finds several gilded scarabs he exclaims, “blue gold!” Thing is, gold really doesn’t come in blue. The warden is undeterred by these pesky facts, convinced that the blue gold scarabs he’s found will “fetch a very fine price.” The scarabs themselves are pretty interesting considering they contain live, flesh-eating beetles. It’s not important to discover how the ancient Egyptians were somehow able to encase live beetles in solid gold, blue or otherwise. That’s totally beside the point, I assure you. As is the small point of their flesh-eating mouth bits somehow being able to punch through solid metal facilitating their escape.

The best part about these flesh-eating bugs is that they seem to work very quickly. In fact, when poor Beni is caught in swarm of them, they devour him down to his bones in a matter of seconds. And yet, when Evy and O’Connell are discussing the flesh-eaters that were thrown in with Imhotep, she talks about how they ate him very slowly. Sure didn’t seem that slow when they poured them in his sarcophagus at the beginning of the film. But let’s assume for a second that they did eat him slowly. Somehow he managed to stay alive long enough to carve letters half an inch deep on the inside of his coffin, using only his fingernails.

When they first discover Imhotep’s sarcophagus, Evy notes that for someone to have been buried at the base of Anubis, they either had to be someone of great importance or someone who did something very naughty. Why are those the only two options? Why would you bury, say a Pharaoh and the worst criminal of the time in the same place?

When Evy starts reading the hieroglyphics on the outside of the sarcophagus, she finds that the mummy contained within is referred to as “he who must not be named.” So for those who were curious, Lord Voldemort was actually an ancient Egyptian high priest.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 dozen closeups of people screaming their heads off. Usually this involves someone or something screaming at O’Connell and then him screaming back. Apparently, screaming is greater than actually fighting. The greatest test of manhood is how loud you can scream and how much you can open your mouth while you do it. Sadly for O’Connell, Imhotep is supernatural and can pretty much open his mouth wide enough to fit a Thanksgiving turkey inside.

And then there’s Brendan Fraser. While The Mummy may well be Brendan Fraser’s best role, that’s kind of like saying Epic Movie is the best of the Friedberg and Seltzer films. Fraser’s monotone table reads actually kind of work here, if only for the fact that he manages to change his volume level frequently making it seem as if he’s speaking like a human. His romantic scenes with Rachel Weisz are about as believable as blue gold and his idea of courage is yelling a lot.

Why I Love It!

Despite it’s many flaws, The Mummy is really a fun movie. While Fraser is never a great choice for leading man, he’s actually not half bad here, coming off as far more witty and charming than normal, and cutting a swath through the undead like a true badass. His arrogant swagger works well and rings mostly true, and while the romantic scenes may be a little stiff and wooden, you can see why Weisz’s character would like him. There’s actually something there to like.

Speaking of Weisz, she’s just adorable here. While I think her character is just a little too over the top in ditziness and naivete, Weisz is stunningly beautiful. She’s made to look almost matronly, perhaps the makeup and wardrobe departments ideas of what a librarian should look like, but you catch glimpses, particularly when she smiles, that just light up the screen.

While some of the CG is dated and cheesy as I mentioned before, I was actually surprised how well some of the effects held up. Imhotep in particular, looks pretty good as he goes through the different stages of his transformation for skeletal mummy to human. Most of the sand effects hold up well too, an impressive feat for decade-old work.

And then there’s Billy Zane. I just love Billy Zane in pretty much anything he’s ever…wait, what’s that you say? The guy playing Imhotep ISN’T Billy Zane?! I uh…wow. How have Arnold Vosloo, the actor actually playing Imhotep, and Billy Zane never played brothers in anything? I’m writing that script now. Vosloo does a great job in this film, playing Zane’s evil doppelganger. In all seriousness, Vosloo’s Imhotep is creepy, appropriately threatening and by the end, pure evil.

The Mummy is a big budget film that delivers on the action and adventure and throws in some clever wit to boot. It’s well-shot and well-paced, and the acting is pretty decent throughout. It’s funny and exciting and a fun ride. On a scale of 1–10, the popcorn munchability meter is holding steady around 9. So sit back, relax and enjoy.

Junkfood Pairing: Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 12 years old

While we typically leave the alcohol to Kevin Carr’s Drinking Game column and Brian’s liquid dinners, Glenlivet seemed the perfect pairing. Jonathan discovers a bottle of the golden nectar in the warden’s belongings after his unfortunate demise. And the pilot, Captain Winston Havlock, seems to have more than his share on a daily basis for many years now. It has the added benefit of making the film that much more enjoyable the more you drink. So grab a glass and some ice and pour yourself a few fingers of this delicious elixir. You’ll be glad you did.

Refuse to sober up and read more Junkfood Cinema