Five thousand years ago, the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson) had assembled a huge army to conquer the known world, starting with North Africa. For seven years they pillaged the lands they encountered until finally meeting their match and being defeated, leaving the King to wander the desert alone. Ultimately he was on the brink of death when he called on the god Anubis to save him and Anubis agreed - at a price. The oasis the god created is now, in 1933, lost to the ages, but if anyone can find it then the husband and wife team of Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) can...
The first Mummy movie from writer and director Stephen Sommers was such a success that this sequel, which arrived a mere two years later, was rushed into production the day it opened to money spinning effect. Sommers evidently was well aware of what his audience wanted to see as this time the offering was much as before, with many of the same cast returning, and an air of the routine already setting in. The excuse for bringing the villain Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) back this time was a coterie of bad guys who want to harness his power and that of the Scorpion King.
And once more, Imhotep wants to reincarnate his lost love, Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez with more to do this time), who handily has already been reincarnated but just needs the soul of the Ancient Egyptian princess to leave her exactly as she used to be. There has to be a reason for Rick and Evelyn to be involved, and that turns out to be down to a magical bracelet they discover while investigating a tomb. The stakes are raised when their young son Alex (Freddie Boath) puts the bracelet on and cannot take it off again, leaving him vulnerable to kidnap by the bad guys.
Which is exactly what happens, and as if all those comparisons with the Indiana Jones franchise had been taken to heart by Sommers, Alex is the film's very own Short Round, a supposedly cute, wisecracking annoyance who spouts such authentic thirties dialogue as "Get a room!" and "Are we there yet?!" while on a journey. This means his parents are intent on getting him back, which takes most of the running time, but the spark that lit up their relationship from before is missing to an extent and there's the feeling that Weisz especially is going through the motions.
It's all about the setpieces, of course, and there's plenty to catch the eye with Imhotep utilising his powers to degrees similar to that we saw before: for example, previously we saw him create a massive sandstorm with his face on it to cause the heroes' plane to crash, here he uses a river to create a tidal wave with his face on it so that the heroes' hot air balloon is brought down. A throwaway line of Evelyn's about her being half-Egyptian in the first film (presumably to make us feel better about most of the "ethnic" characters being killed off) is built upon here to make her a reincarnation too, but largely the plot twists are drowned out by the noise of the special effects, all of which look noticeably computer-generated. It's amusing enough on its level, but the freshness was absent. Music by Alan Silvestri.
[Universal's DVD is the uncut version, although you'll have a hard time spotting the difference, with featurettes aplenty and a sneak peak at the next Mummy movie.]