In “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” Brendan Fraser takes his third turn as the franchise’s adventure-hungry grave robber Rick O’Connell, now living a life of boring domesticity with his wife (Maria Bello). When the couple gets an offer to courier a mysterious bit of jewelry to China, they leap at the chance.
As luck would have it, their son (Luke Ford) is in China and has found the tomb of one Emperor Han (Jet Li), who is now, as you may have guessed, a mummy, having been cursed by a witch. The important thing to take from the convoluted backstory is that Han can be revived.
It’s no secret that the “Mummy” movies are inspired by Thirties- and Forties-era serials. Here, director Rob Cohen has embraced their 2-D characterization and crummy dialogue (“You guys are like mummy magnets!”) that constantly draws attention to the fact that these people fight mummies more than the average person, which is like so funny, we forgot to laugh.
Li, Michelle Yeoh and English-language first-timer Isabella Leong as Alex’s love interest actually save “Dragon Emperor” from being completely terrible. The fight sequences involving the three are well-choreographed, fast and exciting, and the CGI stuff is pretty good, too (especially the yeti, which apparently also know how to do a passable roundhouse kick). Also, we only get about two minutes of the three-headed dragon, which is kind of a rip.
In the end, however, the stronger actors are underused in favor of weak humor and bumbling action sequences from the headline players. While a much stronger entry than Fraser’s recent “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” this third “Mummy” is still just more overblown schlock.