As we all know, the law of averages dictates that sequels shouldn't be as good as their predecessors, and this attempt to franchise 1999's highly enjoyable, and surprisingly profitable, caper, is no exception. The Mummy Returns (are two further efforts entitled The Mummy Forever and The Mummy And Robin set to follow, one wonders?) was a blockbuster waiting to happen, but for all its slick proficiency and brilliant special effects, it's hard to locate in the over-complicated story any of the innocent, tongue-in-cheek charm that made the first film so enjoyable. This is sequel-making by numbers, where the zealous attempts to outdo the predecessor, (one all-poweful baddy last time - hey! - let's have two this time!) loses sight of the finer points.
That's not to say that the second instalment is a lost cause; as escapist, noisy (and indeed the thrills are on an ear-splitting level here) popcorn entertainment, it certainly delivers. The plot, however, gets thoroughly messy, as our heroes fuss over whether or not it's really wise to open ancient Egyptian chests covered in cobwebs, and their resourceful child (Boath) has to live with the consequences of putting on an antique bracelet which allows him to take a speeded-up virtual tour of ancient Egypt. Meanwhile, Fraser and Weisz find themselves involved with Imhotep and his band of undead followers, in such a convoluted way that they are forced to once again save the world from his grasp. You can guess the rest. Also caught up in all this is Hannah, reprising his toff in peril role to even more annoying effect, Velasquez as the kind of character you know was just included to get reincarnated and challenge Weisz to some nifty, post-Crouching Tiger catfights, and wrestler The Rock, whose triumphantly overblown billing as 'The Scorpion King' achieves little except to thoroughly disappoint his legion of tiny fans when they discover how little he is actually on screen.
Despite some neat set-pieces (highlights including a fast and furious man vs. mummy battle on a double-decker bus, and some seriously vicious pygmy mummies in the desert), the action takes too long and sags noticeably in the middle when stilted dialogue takes over from the special effects which are, unsurprisingly, the movie's real star. By the time the final reel happens along we're in familiar territory, with the CGI wizardry the audience will have paid to see unleashed in awesome, truly spectacular fashion. As crustaceans run riot and huge armies swarm the desert like marauding bugs, plot complications cease to become important and the action takes centre stage. If the rest of the movie had been so straightforward they'd have been on to a winner.