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The Movies

Culture

Issue: "Attack and dissent," May 19, 2001
1
The Mummy Returns $68.1 million
1 week in release
$68.1 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz / Stephen Sommers / Universal Studios

PLOT
Escapist nonsense about a couple of adventurers racing to stop the dreaded Scorpion King from conquering the world.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence. Contains lots of pulp-Egyptology: mummies, occult magic, reincarnation, etc.

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BOTTOM LINE
This film begs not to be taken seriously beyond the good guys vs. bad guys level. One action sequence simply piles upon another from start to finish.

2
Driven $6 million
2 weeks in release
$21.5 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Sylvester Stallone, Kip Pardue / Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger) / Warner Bros.

PLOT
Noisy action movie about a racecar driver who comes out of retirement to help a promising rookie.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for language, suggestive content, and some intense crash sequences.

BOTTOM LINE
This is little more than an attempt to revive Stallone's career while appealing to the auto-racing crowd. The scant story serves to stitch together races, chases, and crashes.

3
Bridget Jones's Diary $5.7 million
4 weeks in release
$44.4 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth / Sharon Maguire / Miramax Films

PLOT
Quasi-update of Pride and Prejudice, recounting the exploits of a 30-ish Londoner trying to choose between two suitors.

CAUTION
Rated R for language and strong sexuality.

BOTTOM LINE
Well-acted but sadly set in a world where virtue and honor have nearly opposite meanings than they did for Jane Austen.

4
Spy Kids $3.8 million
6 weeks in release
$98.4 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino / Robert Rodriguez (The Faculty) / Miramax Films

PLOT
When their secret agent parents are captured during a mission, a brother and sister set off to track them down and reunite their family.

CAUTION
Rated PG for action sequences. Also contains some bad language.

BOTTOM LINE
A fun-filled adventure that should appeal to parents and children alike, both for the quality of the storytelling and the strength of the film's pro-family message.

5
Along Came a Spider $3.7 million
5 weeks in release
$60 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter / Lee Tamahori (The Edge) / Paramount Pictures

PLOT
A Secret Service agent and a police detective unite to find the kidnapper who abducted a congressman's daughter; based on the James Patterson novel.

CAUTION
Rated R for violence and language.

BOTTOM LINE
Admittedly implausible and occasionally flat, but nonetheless a thriller without sex or extreme violence.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Mummy Returns opened the summer movie season with a box-office bang: a non-holiday weekend record of almost $70 million. What audiences saw was an over-the-top explosion of special effects and action sequences. Nothing in the movie (Universal Studios, rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence) plays for anything but put-your-brain-in-neutral-style escapism. The Mummy Returns revels in its roots-old pulp-fiction magazines and Boris Karloff-with loads and loads of computer-generated effects. This sequel brings back the leads from the original (Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz), who are now married with a son (Freddie Boath). The bad guy is the Scorpion King (The Rock of WWF fame), who made a deal with an evil pagan god that he and his armies would conquer the world. In the midst of the movie is a long series of chase scenes, martial-arts routines, and shootouts. Beyond good guys and bad guys, the plot is incoherent except as a way to build moment upon moment. Of course, this is no family movie: It includes B-movie horror occult elements such as resurrected mummies, pyramids, tombs, evil werewolf-like warriors, and a magic "bring Mommy back from the dead" spell. But at least the conquer-the-world deal with the devil meets an unintentionally biblical end-failure.

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