The Mummy opens in ancient Egypt as a powerful Pharaoh learns that his mistress and high priest have been fooling around behind his back. He confronts the pair, who respond by stabbing him to death. Before the guards can apprehend her, the mistress takes her own life, confident that her sorcerer/lover will resurrect her. But before the dark priest known as Imhotep can complete the task, he is seized by authorities who cut out his tongue, mummify him alive and bury him in a sarcophagus full of voracious scarabs.
Flashforward 3000 years to the 1920s. Despite the best efforts of warriors committed to keeping the hidden ruins of Hamunaptra a secret (and the mummy in his tomb), treasure seekers find the lost city of the dead, read from a book of the dead and, well, wake the dead. Needless to say, Imhotep—without his morning coffee—rises in a really bad mood and goes on a vengeful rampage against the people who interrupted his multi-millennial snooze. Led by Indiana Jones-wannabe Rick O'Connell, the group must defeat the slowly regenerating corpse before Imhotep kills them all and resurrects his forbidden love. It's a slam-bang special effects-fest that relies less on plot than on action that piles up a considerable body count.
Positive Elements: Moments of heroism and self-sacrifice. One character's chronic disloyalty is held in low esteem. Modest flirtation between Rick and Evelyn avoids sexual overtones or innuendoes.
Spiritual Content: When cornered by the mummy, a conniving, weaselly man rattles through a necklace full of religious icons (including a cross and the star of David), reciting a prayer to each in hopes of escaping violent death. Imhotep is able to recreate plagues that God used to punish Egypt (locusts, flies, water to blood, darkness). In a climactic ceremony, Imhotep uses incantations and other occult means—including a human sacrifice—in an attempt to restore life to his mummified lover. He summons the undead to do battle with Rick (a scene reminiscent of the sword-wielding skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts) and is only thwarted when someone chants from another magical book.
Sexual Content: No sex, but the Pharaoh's mistress appears in a see-through mesh top and thong bottom (basically, naked). Someone uses a crude expression for genitalia.
Violent Content: Pretty much non-stop. At times The Mummy plays like a blast-anything-that-moves video game. Numerous men die in gunfights or at the points of swords during flurries of mass brutality and war. Some are stabbed with knives. Others catch fire. Rick survives being hung from gallows, though his fall through the platform is disturbingly explicit. Hungry beetles burrow underneath people's skin and eat them from the inside out, or swarm over bodies like a school of piranha, leaving a mess of bone and sinew. Slaves are melted by acid. Once Imhotep shakes the dust off and reenters the world, he starts sucking the life out of people in order to consume their organs and regenerate himself (one poor soul survives having his eyes gouged out and his tongue removed before Imhotep finishes him off). After a man dies in a plane crash, his body and the aircraft both sink into quicksand. Rick severs Imhotep's arm, but the monster reaches down and reattaches the limb. The movie's sizable body count—and high gross-out quotient—almost make it easy to overlook "unspectacular" violence including several fistfights and a scene in which the film's heroes drive recklessly through a crowded marketplace and mow down slow-moving locals.
Crude or Profane Language: Evelyn asks Rick for a vow of honesty by prompting, "Do you swear?" He replies, "Every d--- day." Still, the language is surprisingly restrained for a PG-13 release. There's quite a bit of mild profanity, but no s- or f-words. Christian viewers will take exception to several exclamatory uses of the Lord's name.
Drug and Alcohol Content: Occasional alcohol use is aggravated by three scenes that play drunkenness for laughs.
Other Negative Elements: Accused of being deceptive, Jonathan tells his sister, Evelyn, "I lie to everybody. What makes you so special?" Lots of emaciated corpses litter the screen. Some moments exist solely to disgust squeamish viewers, such as the scene in which a partially decayed Imhotep kisses Evelyn on the mouth, or when he eliminates the annoying scarab traveling through his neck and toward his brain by crunching down on it with his rotting teeth. Yuck.
Summary: The Mummy staggers for a number of reasons. First, it dares audiences to think of the various time-honored serials and matinee favorites it's ripping off. For example, a scene on a burning boat seemed to be an imitation of the engulfed tavern sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark (right down to the last-minute rescue of a vital map-producing artifact from the flames). Second, The Mummy is an uneven attempt at being an action-adventure/horror/comedy/romance all wrapped up in one. It loses its bearings about halfway through when its sense of humor takes over like a class clown who just doesn't know when to quit. It descends into silliness. Sure, there are a few funny moments and some really wild special effects (fully exploited in Universal's thrilling theatrical trailer), but that's about it. Once Christian families factor in lots of violence and dark, occult overtones, it becomes obvious that this film is pointless entertainment that's especially inappropriate for the 8- to 14-year-old boys most likely to be attracted to such incoherent eye-candy.