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When ‘The Mummy’ Meets Tom Cruise

Predictable, gimmicky reboot is mildly entertaining

VIDEO: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

Rating: PG-13

Run time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Stars: Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis

Director: Alex Kurtzman

The good news about the high-stakes blockbuster The Mummy is that Tom Cruise, 54, is still his same old heroic self, a cocky kid with a crinkly twinkling wink, buoyant, ebullient, ever youthful. This time, he’s a roguish tomb raider in Iraq who discovers a yummy mummy (Sofia Boutella) who sucks life out of people, making them prune-faced zombies inclined to vanish in puffs of dust or to eat those she doesn’t like.

But Tom is no puffball. When she licks his impressively ripped abs and ceremonially infects him with her dusty, olden-days Egyptian evil, he’s jauntily undaunted, rolling free of every ordeal without a scratch. Mind games. Soul possession. Bird attacks. Rat swarms. Spiders. Pursuit by underwater mummies like the ghosts in one of the better Pirates of the Caribbean movies. A plane crash where Tom and his tomb-hunting archaeologist ex (Annabelle Wallis) tumble around in midair, working through their relationship problems. It’s all pretty well staged, but you won’t fret for a second. Like a little ancient curse is going to stop Tom Cruise! 

The movie deserves better than the poisonous reviews it’s getting — Indiewire calls it Cruise’s worst movie. In fact, it’s mildly entertaining, though its numerous famous screenwriters won’t be bragging at parties about its originality. Repeatedly, they raise your hopes with a promising riff, as when Tom’s best friend (Jake Johnson) turns into an undead wiseacre best friend a la An American Werewolf in London, then blow the execution. Quotes and gimmicks from other films wander in, sometimes score in a familiar kind of way, then wander off.

Tom Cruise in 'The Mummy'

Chiabella James/Universal Studios/Everett Collection

Buff or not, Tom Cruise can't escape the corporate curse on "The Mummy."

The bad news is, there is an ancient curse on The Mummy. It is the curse of corporate greed. Universal envied the superhero franchises of DC and Marvel, and used Cruise to launch its own, multi-picture “Dark Universe” of Avengers and Justice League wannabes, raiding the old monster properties it owns. Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll is spectacularly superfluous in The Mummy, standing around explaining a plot with more holes than a mummy’s muumuu, but Universal owns the character and plans to give him his own film, as they will with Javier Bardem in Bride of Frankenstein and Johnny Depp in The Invisible Man

Universal could not have had worse luck in launching its series. The very week that Warner’s DC blockbuster Wonder Woman kicked butt at the box office and breathed new life into superhero cinema, Universal sucked some more life out of monsters lying around in their vaults. 

When Steven Spielberg and George Lucas rebooted old adventure serials with Indiana Jones, they were smart enough to give it wit, inventiveness, clear characters and tight focus — at first, Indy was going to be a Bond-like ladykiller as well as an archaeologist, but they decided it would be confusing. In The Mummy, the filmmakers threw in everything including the kitchen sink.

Tom Cruise is ready for a real blockbuster made by artists. Unfortunately, The Mummy was made by MBAs.

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