If movies have taught us anything, it's that minor villains who join forces with major ones generally live just long enough to regret that decision. A hapless bad guy learns that seemingly commonsensical life lesson when he helps resurrect evil tyrant Jet Li in hopes of becoming Li's most trusted general in Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, the feverishly unanticipated second sequel to the perfectly passable 1999 retro blockbuster The Mummy. Surprisingly, the poorly thought-out human/undead alliance qualifies as maybe the sixth or seventh most preposterous plot point in Rob Cohen's over-the-top late-summer romp.
The perpetually boyish Brendan Fraser—who has logged so many hours in front of green screens that his children probably have traces of CGI in their DNA—returns as a dashing adventurer coping poorly with premature retirement alongside author/wife Maria Bello. The couple is called back into action when their dashing playboy son helps uncover a priceless artifact with the power to unleash Li's evil.
Dragon Emperor plods along mechanically through its first hour, hitting all the expected notes with bland efficiency. The usually estimable Bello wrestles with a wobbly British accent and struggles to take over the role originated by Rachel Weisz. Then the abominable snowmen arrive, followed by the awesome revelation that yetis are forces for good that pop up at exactly the right moment to get the heroes out of a fix. Like the National Treasure movies, Dragon Emperor succeeds largely through sheer excess: It's doubtful that any idea was thrown out for being too implausible. The filmmakers seemingly polled 10-year-old boys on what kind of cool shit they'd like to see in a Mummy movie then wrote the script to their specifications. Accordingly, Dragon Emperor involves not only yetis and mummies, but also three-headed dragons, a Sam Raimi-esque battle between undead armies, and a memorably badass Jet Li. Dragon Emperor doesn't exactly beg for a sequel (neither did The Mummy Returns, for that matter), but it'd be fun to watch the filmmakers try to outdo this dizzy spectacle in the arena of sheer ridiculousness.