The Mummy (1932) — Pick
Bean: The Movie/Mr. Bean’s Holiday (1997/2007) — Pick
This week, mummy movies hit DVD new release shelves, hoping to ride the coattails of Brendan Fraser’s third big-screen mummy adventure (opening Aug. 1).
Fraser’s The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) are both mixed bags, so jumbled that I can’t really recommend or dis-recommend them. Fraser’s first outing is like a case study in how closely a movie can copy the template of Raiders of the Lost Ark without capturing its greatness, while The Mummy Returns is partly redeemed from profound silliness by tongue-in-cheek humor.
It’s easier to render a verdict on the movie that started it all, The Mummy (1932), the original Universal horror/thriller starring Boris Karloff. Smart, spooky and satisfying, it’s a monster movie that proves that monsters are a lot more interesting when there’s more to them than creep factor.
The iconic image of Karloff’s cloth-swathed hand reaching out from beyond the grave is so familiar that the Mummy is widely thought of as another shambling, mute monster like Karloff’s best-known role in Frankenstein. Viewers are thus often surprised to discover that the Mummy appears in his grave clothes only once in the beginning of the film. Once revived, Im-hop-tep turns out to be a figure more like Lugosi’s vampire in Universal’s earlier Dracula.
The story about curses ignored and mystic powers foolishly tampered with set the stage for countless later films, from demoniac treatments like The Exorcist to the divine power of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Also new on DVD is a twofer edition of Rowan Atkinson’s two Bean movies, Bean: The Movie and Mr. Bean’s Holiday. For Bean’s legions of fans, both may be must-haves; for my money, the sequel is a better bet than the original.
Bean: The Movie features Atkinson’s innocent, mischievous enfant terrible inexplicably employed at a London art museum, and even more inexplicably tasked with accompanying Whistler’s Mother to an exhibition in Los Angeles. Peppered with moments of hilarity, Bean is unfortunately marred by unnecessary PG-13 rudeness and profanity.
By contrast, the G-rated sequel better captures Bean’s essential innocence in a charming road trip across France with the Riviera as the always elusive destination. Mr. Bean’s Holiday is an ideal expression of Atkinson’s affinity for the silent comics, whose appeal for audiences of all ages including the youngest children is echoed in this story of mishaps and miscommunication.
The Mummy: Uncanny occult doings in an ancient-Egyptian religious context; mild menace. Might be okay for older kids. Bean: The Movie: A few profane and rude expressions; brief sexually themed humor; an instance of gross-out humor. Teens and up. Mr. Bean’s Holiday: Slapstick violence; brief potty humor; mild danger to a child (separation from parents). Fine family viewing.