Ra Ra Ra for dumb adventure!

STEVE TILLEY

, Last Updated: 1:45 PM ET

The Mummy Returns, opening in theatres today, is a movie with about as many brains in its dusty, musty head as your basic 3,000-year-old bandage-wrapped Pharaoh carcass sitting in a museum display.

And you know what? It doesn't care. And you know what else? Neither should you.

Writer-director Stephen Sommers obviously saw what didn't work in his 1999 box-office blockbuster The Mummy - i.e. the half-hearted attempts at plot, characterization and sense - and surgically removed them for this paint-by-numbers sequel, which shamelessly milks every action-adventure cliche in the book.

Normally that might be a bad thing. But The Mummy was so brain-beatingly bland and deadly dumb that making the sequel even worse would have taken more skill than a guy like Sommers could muster.

Instead, The Mummy Returns is end-to-end action, mayhem, scares, gags and bits of nonsensical story, washing over the audience like a flood of computer-generated scorpions. Trying to fight it will only make it worse. Thinking about it will only make it worse. But sitting there with a smile on your face as the scorpions tickle around in your underpants makes The Mummy Returns a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Set a decade after the original, The Mummy Returns reunites (if that's not too grand a word) original stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz as Rick and Evelyn O'Connell. Yep, the former foreign legion soldier and the feisty librarian are now married, and along with their nine-year-old tow-headed son Alex (Freddie Boath) and Evie's brother Jonathan (John Hannah), they're sort of a globe-trotting family of tomb raiders, keeping up with the Indiana Joneses, as it were.

That is, until the ancient mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is resurrected by a legion of followers to do battle with another soon-to-be-resurrected demigod, the Scorpion King (played - for all of his five minutes of prologue screen time - by WWF superstar the Rock). Whoever wins gets control over an undead army of canine soldiers and takes over the world, see.

Then little Alex is kidnapped after he puts on the Scorpion King's bracelet, because it shows the bad guys the way to the Scorpion King's lair but also starts the countdown to the end of the world. Or something. And there's some other nonsense about Evie's past life as the pharaoh's daughter Nefertiri, in which she did battle with the also now-resurrected (doesn't anybody stay dead anymore?) Anck-Su-Namun, played by stunning South American supermodel Patricia Velasquez.

It doesn't matter. The Mummy Returns is all about the spectacle, and there's plenty of that. Hordes of computer-generated bugs, mummies, soldiers, Gremlins-inspired pygmy thingies and cartoon bad guys menace our cardboard heroes at every cliffhanging turn. There are explosions and car chases and air chases and gunfights and swordfights and fistfights and half-naked Egyptian hottie-fights and boom bang crash KABOOOM!

True, the last half hour of the movie nearly drowns in its own sea of special effects, until the audience is finally left praying to Ra for sweet release.

But there hasn't been a big, brainless action flick that took itself as utterly un-seriously as The Mummy Returns in some time.

The summer movie season is officially here. Don't fight it. It will only make it worse. (More on: The Mummy Returns).

(This film is rated PG)


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