What do Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep all have in common?
All three legendary stars have at least one stinker on their resume.
- Olivier? — “The Jazz Singer”
- Hoffman? — “Sphere”
- Streep? — “She Devil”
Tom Cruise has never made a bad movie. “Losin’ It” is far from good, but as a hokey teen comedy its ambitions weren’t sky high. “Lions for Lambs” comes close. It still feels more like an ensemble dud dragged down by Robert Redford’s liberalism.
Cruise’s “The Mummy?” It’s rotten to the core. End of story.
Cruise’s first scene in the film might have made a great parody of his on-screen persona. He’s playing Nick Morton, an Army sergeant with a knack for knicking antiquities. Nick plays by his own rules and never lets gunfire get in the way of a quip.
He cracks wise with Jake Johnson’s sidekick character, and the alleged humor never comes close to making us grin. Johnson could role out of bed and play this kind of role. It’s his Gilligan, his Greg Brady.
That’s how bad the screenplay, credited to six! writers, is. The script mutes both Johnson’s charm and Cruise’s megawatt smile. Look, Ma … no CGI!
Morton and Generic Sidekick run into archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a beauty investigating a newly discovered mummy tomb.
Turns out this mummy nurses a centuries’ old grudge. How do we know? The numbing prologue tells us. And so does the script. If expository dialog satiates you, better watch “The Mummy” with a fork, spoon and bib.
Don’t forget the Tums.
The title character is brought to life by CGI gurus and Sofia Boutella. The beguiling actress gave the mediocre “Star Trek Beyond” some snap. Here, she’s buried by blockbuster bloat and some unfortunate tattoos.
We haven’t even mentioned Russell Crowe’s turn as Dr. Henry Jekyll. Yes, that Dr. Jekyll. He’s tracking some evil creatures as part of a grand scheme to, well, it’s not crystal clear.
Very little is here, except that his Mr. Hyde persona is as scary as Fred Rogers sporting a clean red sweater.
“The Mummy” rolled off the assembly line for one reason: to establish the new “Dark Universe” of Universal monsters. It’s a marketing construct first, second and fifteenth. A summer roller coast ride? Dead last.[clickToTweet tweet=”#TheMummy isn’t actually a movie. It’s more like scaffolding to prop up a new shared movie universe” quote=”‘The Mummy’ is the kind of film an actor tackles if facing enormous debt or the need to chase a scandal off the Drudge Report.”]
If you leave the theater eager to see how Universal resurrects The Invisible Man and Frankenstein’s Monster your love for classic monsters is unbreakable. The film’s studio is banking on that affection.
It all begs the biggest question of the summer movie season to date. How did Cruise end up here?
His resume reflects his painstaking quest for perfection. He takes a producer’s credit on most of his big projects and lines up smart collaborators to make them sparkle. That’s how you stay atop the A-list into your 50s.
Yet “The Mummy” is the kind of film an actor tackles if facing enormous debt or the need to chase a scandal off the Drudge Report.
A few “Mummy” sequences offer some popcorn-munching fun. The airplane crash teased in the trailer will leave you breathless. And Cruise gives it 120 percent in every scene.
He has no other mode.
That same, go for broke spirit that makes the “Mission: Impossible” franchise a hoot only makes matters worse here. Even Cruise can tell he’s wallowing in his worst film to date.
We haven’t even mentioned the tonal shifts infesting the narrative. Director Alex Kurtzman gives no attention to a consistent atmosphere. At times “The Mummy” establishes a dollop of tension in the grand horror movie tradition. Soon, a clumsy romantic subplot interrupts the mood. Seconds later, we’re back into Cruise action mode.
Anything is better than seeing Nick and Jenny flirt.
It all makes the notion of a new shared universe something to genuinely fear.
HiT or Miss: The only thing scary about “The Mummy” is that Universal thought it was the best way to kick off a classic monster universe.