Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Mummies and Mitzvahs

third stringer the mummy 2h Sara Vilkomerson’s Guide To This Week’s Movies: Mummies and MitzvahsSo, let’s just get this out of the way: The Dark Knight is apparently unstoppable—it’s bat-tastic, and it’s got legs (and wings!) and it will be number one for all time and make the most amount of money a movie has ever made ever in the history of moviemaking. O.K.? Moving on to this weekend, we’ve got The Mummy. Brendan Fraser returns as Rick O’Connell in this threequel, directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). If you’re like us, and the majority of your Mummy knowledge consists of snippets caught from the many TNT and TBS reruns of Mummy 1 and 2—don’t worry: There’s not much to catch up on here. However, one big surprise is that the role of Evelyn has changed hands from the kitten-eyed Rachel Weisz to Maria Bello, who sports incongruous brown locks and an even more dubious English accent. This is sort of like the two Beckys in Roseanne: Why not just make a new character? It’s particularly strange, too, to see Ms. Bello—who has sort of cornered the flinty, rough-around-the-edges blonde market—play a sassy-pants adventurer who happens to be an expert in ancient Chinese. But belief must be suspended all around, especially when lines like “We’ve got to put this mummy down” are delivered in earnest, and there are yetis that look like arctic versions of the zombies from I Am Legend.

The plot, which depends an awful lot on voice-over exposition, revolves around an ancient Chinese emperor (Jet Li) who is cursed to spend eternity in some sort of suspended animation by a beautiful witch (Michelle Yeoh). Cue 1940s England, where we meet back up with the O’Connells, who are doing their very best to play at being retired. Somehow, too, we’re supposed to believe that Brendan Fraser has a 19-year-old son (Luke Ford, who brings an additional inexplicable accent to the table) who has followed in his parents’ footsteps. The undead come back to furious life, of course, and the O’Connell family must stop the emperor before he and his warrior army get to Shangri-La and become immortal. Got it? We’re sure there are perfect audiences for this kind of stuff—we’re guessing 12-year-old boys—but to us, these movies just feel like pale imitations of Indiana Jones. Here’s the perfect example of how far this movie is willing to go: There’s a flight scene in the Himalayas that gets John Hannah (Sliding Doors) in the backseat with a furry cow, and he ends up holding an air sickness bag to the animal’s mouth, all so that they could get in a “the yak yakked” joke. That’s gumption, people!

The Mummy opens Friday at Regal Union Square, AMC Loews 34th Street and Kips Bay theaters.

 

AND THEN THERE’S Sixty Six. The title refers to the year 1966, and the summer in England when the whole country was consumed with World Cup. It also happened to be the summer of Bernie Rubens’ Bar Mitzvah. When we meet Bernie (Gregg Sulkin), he’s sort of the quintessential little geek: bespectacled; wet-lipped and lispy; the last one picked for the sports team, etc. His older brother, Alvie, is a sort of popular meathead; the dynamic between them is very Anthony Michael Hall and Bill Paxton in Weird Science, but with English accents and 1960s costuming. Bernie’s family is having its own troubles—his father, Manny (Eddie Marsan), runs a failing grocery store with his own much cooler brother, Jimmy (Peter Serafinowicz), while Bernie’s mother, Esther (Helena Bonham Carter), smokes a lot and looks worried. Bernie becomes obsessed with the idea that his rite of manhood à la the Jewish faith will be the time when the whole world will finally wake up and take notice of him. Unfortunately, this instead turns out to be the time when his family’s finances go south, his asthma kicks in and, worst of all, his Bar Mitzvah is scheduled to take place on the day of the World Cup final. The movie trips along with England’s draw in the cup, Bernie rooting furiously against his home country, with the inevitable England vs. West Germany match finally arriving on the day he’s meant to read the Torah in front of a room of at least 200 guests. By the time everyone has canceled, it’s more like 10 friends and family members, and the fancy hall with ice sculpture has turned into his parent’s backyard. We won’t reveal what finally happens, except to say that yes, England did win, and perhaps the best part of the whole film was the archival footage of Queen Elizabeth in a nifty canary yellow suit looking rather sassy.

Sixty Six is based on the real life experiences of director Paul Weiland, a name that rang such a bell that we decided to look him up … only to discover that he was the man responsible (at least partly) for the McDreamy mess that was this year’s Made of Honor. This movie is a lot better than that, but still rather gooey around the edges. In the end, it feels more like a therapeutic exercise than a story worth telling—we expected much more from Working Title Films and executive producer Richard Curtis, who wrote some of our feel-good favorites (Love, Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral). It’s fun to see Helena Bonham Carter not play all goth-y and crazy, but we kept waiting for her to put on red lipstick and do something nuts. Perhaps our own traumatic memories of Bar Mitzvahs past made us we wish we had been at Wembly stadium that 1966 July instead of at Bernie Rubens Big Day?

Sixty Six opens Friday at United Artists 64th Street and Village East Cinemas.

svilkomerson@observer.com