The Quarantine Stream: 'The Mummy' Is Good Old Fashioned Dumb Fun

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: The Mummy

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: Before Universal attempted (and botched) the Dark Universe, there was 1999's The Mummy, a film that was billed as a remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff horror flick but was closer to a Looney Tunes cartoon crossed with an Indiana Jones sequel. The story involves a quest for treasure and an ancient curse, but that's really just an excuse to have a bunch of jokes and fun action set-pieces.

Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: The Mummy is a movie about attractive people having an entertaining adventure, and also there's a scene where the Mummy is terrified of a cat and turns into CGI sand. What other excuse do you need to watch a movie?

I'm a big fan of the classic Universal monster movies, so when I learned a new Mummy movie was on the horizon back in 1999, I was excited. And then I saw the movie, which was definitely not a classic horror film. Is there horror in The Mummy? Sure! The Mummy himself is a murderous monster and there are moments here where people are killed by swarms of bugs or have their eyeballs removed. It's gross! But The Mummy isn't really trying to scare you – it's trying to entertain you.

And you know what? That's fine. This film is incredibly silly, and it doesn't have an original bone in its shroud-wrapped body. And yet...it's hard to resist. Writer-director Stephen Sommers strikes just the right tone of pulpy adventure fun, and he's not holding anything back here. This was, at the time, the biggest movie Summers had made, and he clearly was relishing the idea of unleashing a bunch of CGI mayhem involving sand storms, rotten ghouls, and other such hokum. Do I wish this stuff had been done with practical effects? I sure do. But that doesn't mean I dislike what's going on here.

The real secret to The Mummy's success, though, is the casting. Brendan Fraser is perfectly cast as Rick O'Connell, a pulpy himbo who is kind of dumb but not in an offensive way. He's just a big cheesehead who likes to shoot guns and kiss dames, and you can't help but like him. Fraser brings the perfect amount of lunkheaded charm to the part, and it's endearing. And he's matched perfectly with Rachel Weisz, who is utterly charming as  Evelyn, a librarian who gets mixed up in all this mummy business. This was not Weisz's screen debut, but it is the film that made her a star, and it's easy to see why – she's funny, sweet, and radiant here.

Fraser and Weisz are backed-up by a game cast that includes John Hannah as Evelyn's drunkard brother, Kevin J. O'Connor as the treacherous Beni, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay, the leader of the Medjai, and of course, Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, the titular mummy. Most if not all of these people are also really good-looking, so that certainly doesn't hurt the movie.

The Mummy feels like a lightning in a bottle scenario. This movie works extremely well, but it was a one-and-done thing. I'm sorry fans of The Mummy Returns, but that movie is bad. And The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor isn't much better. On top of that, all of Summers' post-Mummy films were misfires (Van Helsing is an abomination, don't even try to deny it). It's like the stars aligned here to make The Mummy an entertaining romp whose success couldn't be duplicated.