Big, dumb fun

Latest Mummy installment won’t insult your intelligence … probably

BIG, DUMB GUNS<br>Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello—ready to kick some terra cotta ass!

Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello—ready to kick some terra cotta ass!

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello and Michelle Yeoh. Directed by Rob Cohen. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

Well, the summer blockbuster season is finally staggering to the finish line, bigger and dumber than expected. Not dumb as in “big, dumb fun,” just dumb as in leading one to blink at the screen and wonder, “Holy crow … do they expect us to swallow that?”

Right now the leading contenders for dumbest-assed moments involve an adventurer escaping a Ground Zero nuclear blast by jumping into a refrigerator, and a chick surviving a 100-story plummet to the street because she’s wrapped in the arms of some dude wearing gonzo Kevlar.

The big surprise here is that the latest entry in a franchise fueled by dumb moments doesn’t even have a numbnut moment of its own to compete. Not saying that The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor isn’t dumb in its own right, but it’s the kind of self-aware dumb that lets the audience know that they’re not being condescended to. Well, at least the American audience. Who knows what the Chinese audience is gonna think.

Because here (in an extended prologue) the Chinese emperor responsible for building the Great Wall of China is established as a total dick who uses the bodies of those who stand in his way as foundation for the wall. But in the process, he pisses off the wrong hottie witch. After she hooks him up with immortality, he rewards her by having her boyfriend drawn and quartered. She retaliates by turning the Dragon Emperor into a giant pudding pop that catches fire and then solidifies him into a terra cotta tyrant, biding his time encased in funk, until a couple of millennia later the son of the Nick and Nora Charles of archeology (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) stumbles along to set him free. And then it’s all sorts of slam-bam CGI action sequences, pitching woo and wisecracks until they all work together to put a cork in the Dragon Emperor and his army of darkness’ quest for world domination.

As such, it’s big, dumb fun. Not great big, dumb fun, but definitely better than that last Mummy mess. Here we’ve got field goal-kicking Yetis, undead soldiers indulging in old Three Stooges routines, a CGI King Ghidorah knockoff and Jet Li squaring off against Michelle Yeoh.

And, unlike a lot of the other big tickets this season, the script doesn’t bother entering the valley of extended exposition. Lots of showing, not telling. Which is sorta what a blockbuster is supposed to be, right? Of course, it’s all instantly forgettable, but giddy enough in its own goofiness to be sort of infectious as it unreels.