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Has ever a group of characters been more whored than the Universal movie monsters of the ’30s and ’40s? I’m thinking specifically of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, and—perhaps most egregiously violated—the Mummy. The gruesome foursome were first appropriated by England’s Hammer Studios in the ’60s for a series of bloody full-color—and generally bloody awful—films. In the ’90s, the properties attracted such auteurs as Francis Ford Coppola, Kenneth Branagh, and Mike Nichols, who created remakes ranging wildly in quality. Guilty of committing the worst trespasses against these icons is writer-director Stephen Sommers, who took a creepy and atmospheric horror film, 1932’s The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund, and turned it into what is surely the goofiest franchise going: 1999’s The Mummy and the insipid The Mummy Returns. Picking up eight years after Sommers’ first tour of duty in the Egypt of his mind, The Mummy Returns finds adventurer Rick O’Connell (a pudgy, wooden Brendan Fraser) and his archaeologist wife, Evelyn (a luminous Rachel Weisz), once more desecrating ancient tombs and—oops! they did it again—inadvertently resurrecting mummified corpses. Thrown into the mix this time around are the O’Connells’ son, Alex (played with Oliver!-worthy earnestness by Freddie Boath), and the Scorpion King (played by the Rock and, later, a computer-generated version of the Rock), who wants to lead the armies of Anubis against the world. Or something. There is a plot in The Mummy Returns; several, in fact, but none really make sense or are particularly interesting, including the storyline revealing that Evelyn is the reincarnated Egyptian princess Nefertiri. Although this “twist” does nothing to further the larger story, it does allow Sommers to flash back to a catfight between Nefertiri and another similarly underclad desert honey—much to the delight, I’m sure, of Sommers’ target audience: teenage boys and, um, horny Egyptologists. Perhaps because I fit neither demographic, I found The Mummy Returns—with the exception of one action sequence that brilliantly spoofs Speed (the O’Connells aboard a double-decker bus, pursued through London by voracious mummies)—tiresome and unimaginative, and longed for the slow-moving, shuffling mass of bandages and menace that was Boris Karloff. —Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa