It’s probably past time that animated filmmakers, looking for subjects to fascinate children, alight upon ancient Egypt and bring us a film about mummies. Whether we should welcome that turn is another matter, because while director Juan Jesus Garcia Galocha had a promising idea, he doesn’t do a lot to bring it to life.
The setting is mostly the Mummy underworld, where ancient Egyptians keep going about their business, just with a few extra bandages. Our heroes are former charioteer Thut (Joe Thomas) and princess Nefer (Eleanor Tomlinson) who are under pressure to marry for some reason, despite dynastic succession presumably not being a problem for the undead. When their engagement ring is stolen by a nefarious treasure hunter (Hugh Bonneville), Thut sets off with his young brother Sekhem (Santiago Winder) and cute pet crocodile to retrieve it, only to be joined by Nefer. Above the ground, they challenge the limitations of their station and their history, and wonder whether they should even go home at all.
More fatally, it’s not nearly as fun as it should be.
It’s a colourful film with some nice design touches to keep the kids interested, but it feels silly as an adult, more rooted in films about Egyptology than in Egypt per se. There are nods to Prince Of Egypt, to The Fifth Element and even, Ra help us, to Stargate. Aside from a bit with an (authentically Egyptian) boomerang, however, it’s all terribly familiar and pretty first-base – and it’s not a great look to have a mostly white, British cast voicing all the Egyptians.
More fatally, it’s not nearly as fun as it should be. The mummies’ reckoning with the modern world boils down to a shopping trip and a bit of mistaken identity in a production of Aida. There’s little real sense of culture shock or discovery, and nothing terribly original in their characters’ journeys. It’s just another pent-up princess looking for freedom and another heedless young (sort of) man who needs to grow up. Two funny gags — the bad guy is a mummy’s boy, pun intended, and Sean Bean is cast as someone already long dead – aren’t enough to leaven a generally disappointing mix.