As a special effects bonanza, you are spoilt for choice. After the surprise success of Stephen Sommers's tongue-in-cheek The Mummy, he has gone to town in the sequel with everything from a half-man-half-scorpion to an army of wolf-headed warriors made out of sand. As a result, the story suffers and the characters, who were the best thing in the first movie, are overshadowed by the extraordinary events surrounding them.
Rick (Brendan Fraser), the guileless legionnaire, is married to the brainy Egyptologist, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and they live in a stately home in the middle of London. Their eight-year-old son, Alex (Freddie Boath), has inherited the best qualities of both his parents. Uncle Jonathan (John Hannah), Evelyn's ne'er-do-well brother, remains feckless and lily-livered.
As well as resurrecting the decomposed body of the Pharoah's high priest, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), who can suck life out of living people in order to repair his cadaver, Sommers introduces a more powerful adversary in the form of The Scorpion King (American wrestler The Rock), a notorious warlord from Thebes, 3000 BC, who made a Faustian pact with a bad god in order to destroy his enemies.
The hokum levels are off the scale. It is better not to worry about why dead people come to life, mummies run sideways across the face of buildings like Jurassic Park hybrids and Evelyn is the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess. The plot allows Sommers to indulge his imagination, without constraints of budget or credibility.
What matters is that Alex is kidnapped, Rick and Evelyn give chase and end up in the desert with most of the cast from two years ago. They hire the services of Izzy (Shaun Parkes from Human Traffic), an eccentric English-speaking black man, and fly off in a battered old boat suspended from a balloon.
Visual surprises make up for the absurdity of the storyline. In addition to the heroine, there is much beauty to be found. The Moroccan locations have a grandeur that surpasses disbelief.
Rick is good-hearted and brave. Evelyn is loyal and determined. They don't have rows, they have discussions, although when attacked by supernatural creatures tend to act on impulse, which means fast and on target. Evelyn has visions, which are rather tiresome, to do with her past life. Rick never sits down with a book, or a whisky-and-soda, when something needs to be done, such as rescue his son from the clutches of the evil ones. He doesn't question a rotted mummy's right to punch him in the face. He picks himself up and punches it back.
Fraser and Weisz are the perfect couple. He has become the most interesting light comedian of his generation. He almost saved Bedazzled from Liz Hurley's kiss of death and was hilarious as a time-warped innocent in Blast From The Past. She injected much-needed sex appeal into the Stalingrad siege thriller, Enemy At The Gates, and was genuinely funny in the underrated Glaswegian comedy-of-bodies, Beautiful Creatures.
Hannah was miscast first time around. He doesn't fit silly ass roles and has precious little to do here, except put on what he thinks is a Bertie Wooster expression. The real find is nine-year-old Boath. With virtually no acting experience, he gives Alex a genuine personality and is obviously enjoying every moment of it.