The third Mummy installment suffers from a gravelly voiced Brendan Fraser and awkward "family moments."

The third Mummy installment suffers from a gravelly voiced Brendan Fraser and awkward "family moments."

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, and Jet Li star in a film written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and directed by Rob Cohen.

It’s hard to figure why a director like Rob Cohen would suck so abysmally at a film like this. His earlier junk-film buffets like The Fast and the Furious and XXX delightfully balanced between hard-edged thrills and gleeful implausibility, which, by rights, would seem to be all that’s required to sell the third episode in a funny, fun, dumb series that combines all the callous imperialism of Indiana Jones with the equally insatiable sexual tension of the Universal horror film-think of all those shrieking 1930s actresses being carried off by Boris or Bela, mixed with a little sanctioned tomb robbing.

To be fair to Cohen, however, the casting here is atrocious. Much as I love Maria Bello, she just seems unduly precious as a stand-in for Rachel Weisz, who’s apparently too big for these cargo britches now. Bello’s English accent is whispery, where Weisz’s was of the plummy variety and offered both hysteria and strength. Bello’s mainly got nice legs. Fraser himself isn’t really working out either; he keeps talking way down in his throat as if inexplicably channeling the mojo of Sylvester Stallone. Far worse, however, is Luke Ford as Rick and Evelyn’s now grownup son, Alex. His presence no doubt is meant to give the kids somebody to watch. But he’s flavorless. And Cohen keeps giving the trio big family moments, playing off their big family problems, which just reinforces the overall awkwardness of the film.

There are fleeting moments of awe-the sight of Shangri La and a long horse and buggy chase through the streets of 1946 Shanghai. But the machinery is broken. It takes too long to make Jet Li a real threat, and by that time the movie has to wrap up swiftly. You’d think that the director who made Vin Diesel look sexy could at least pull off a mummy movie with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, but this is one B-movie action sequel that should’ve stayed under wraps.

For showtimes, check the Independent's movie listings, here.

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