Home from my business trip to Chicago, where I stayed at the very beautiful Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, a lovely hotel with very nice rooms and comfy beds. As part of our expense allowance when travelling, my company lets us rent one in-room movie per night. I always try to to take advantage of this, especially to see more recent films that I missed in theatres. This weekend I saw two movies that I had wanted to see in theatres this summer, but missed.
First up: Director Peter Berg's "Anti-Superhero" movie Hancock, starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. I admit to being a fan of all three of these talented and attractive actors. What the hell they are doing in this mess, however, is beyond me. Smith is the title character, an uncaring alcoholic with superpowers, but no memory of how he came to have them or why he has them. He causes destruction where ever he goes; wracking up damages in the millions, killing whales and alienating the people of Los Angeles who have begun to see him as more of a threat than the criminals he pursues. When he saves down-on-his-luck PR man Ray Embry (Bateman) from an impending train wreck, Embry sees an opportunity to turn both his and Hancock's lives around. Embry brings Hancock home for dinner with his family, where Ray's wife Mary (Theron) sees Hancock as a threat to a secret she's been keeping from her family.
Sadly, Berg and screenwriters Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan go absolutely nowhere with what could have been an intriguing concept. Instead, we get a muddied mess of a redemption story that completely wastes the talents of its cast and the time of its audience. The jokes fall flat, the CGI looks cheap and not a single character comes off as likable. The plot twists (such as they are) are telegraphed practically from the beginning and the film starts in the middle of the real story, leaving a confused audience with nothing and no one to root for. What a shame.
The next night, I watched The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Reprising his role from the first two Mummy films, Brendan Frasier returns as American adventurer Rick O'Connell, now living the quiet life of a gentrified Englishman in post-war Britain. His wife Evie (now played by Maria Bello after Rachel Wiesz wisely bowed out) has written two novels based on their previous adventures, and finds herself blocked when it comes to writing a much-anticipated third in the series. Their son, Alex (somehow missing the English accent his younger version had the second film) has taken off from college and found the above-mentioned tomb, where 2000 years ago an evil Chinese emperor (action star Jet Li) was cursed by a witch (the lovely and talented Michelle Yeoh) to spend eternity with his vast army as terra-cotta statues.
Unfortunately, what should have been a fun reinvention of the franchise, comes off as silly and trite and makes one wonder what Fraser, Li and Yeoh are doing in this movie (besides making a buck). John Hannah returns as Evie's irascible brother Jonathan, now running a nightclub (the Egyptian-themed "Imhotep's") in Shanghai. A convenient plot contrivance gets the O'Connells to Shanghai just in time for the unveiling of their son's discovery. An evil general wants to raise the Emperor from the dead so he can contain the chaos that is post-war China and eventually rule the world. There is a ridiculous romantic subplot involving the witch's daughter, Lin (the lovely Isabella Leong) and a sublimely silly tribe of helpful CG Yeti who look more like a cross between a cat and a bear than any depiction of the Abominable Snowman I've ever seen. Ford, as Alex, is flat and boring and looks barely young enough to be the son of 38 year-old Fraser. Ms. Bello, while a fine actress, is lacking the fiery spitball spunk Ms. Wiesz brought to the role of Evie. While Wiesz played Evie as an adorable nerd who finds her inner-warrior, Bello plays her as a supremely confident heroine with no hint of her bookish background. Consequently, we no longer care about the character. Writers Alfred Gough and Alfred Millar even resort to a cheap joke about how the character in Evie's novels is "a completely different woman." Fraser, as hot as ever (and maybe even a bit more-so), is game but has little to work with here. The movie ends with Jonathan taking refuge in Peru where, unfortunately, there are plenty more mummies to be found. Let's hope this the end of the run for the O'Connells and their mummy-fighting ways. Pee-yew!
As always, more of this, anon.