From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: At theatres: ‘The Mummy Returns’; on TV: ‘CSI’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 24, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

The Twenty-four Frames Cinema in Cheney was standing room only a recent Friday night for the opening of Universal’s latest action feature, The Mummy Returns. The crowd seemed pleased with the two hours plus film of pretty much constant movie violence.

I did not see the original film so maybe I had a tougher time than most trying to make sense of a plot going all over the place with little development before the next wave of violence takes place. The screenwriter of the film is the well known writer of Chinatown, Robert Towne. The Mummy Returns bears no resemblance to that earlier classic film.

The plot centers around Rick (Brendan Fraser) and his archaeologist wife, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) who are exploring temple ruins in Egypt in the 1930s. With them is their precocious 8-year-old son who seems to be able to run free through ruins that have secret doors, scorpions, and unexpected visitors who are the “bad guys.”

Let me say right away that the acting in this adventure movie is exaggerated and the dialogue is pretty poor if you are really trying to follow the story. But Alex (Freddie Boath) is a very good actor and makes this wild story come alive with some believability every time he is on the screen. The movie is worth seeing just to see this talented young actor show what he can do.

As the plot moves forward whether any of us are able to follow it or not, Alex back in London puts on his arm an ancient Egyptian bracelet that was once owned by a famous warrior known as the Scorpion King. In seven days all kinds of things will happen to the person wearing the gold ornament. So Alex is stolen from his family by a series of bad guys who take him by London Transport double decker bus, train and camel to a special pyramid in Egypt. Meanwhile, his folks and several other characters follow him in a jet-propelled dirigible.

Everybody gets caught in all kinds of fights. Sometimes there are thousands of dog-like computer generated soldiers fighting thousands of soldiers out of Lawrence of Arabia. There is a subplot where Evelyn has elaborate dreams of visions that she was really an Egyptian princess who sort of knows what all this hokum really means. We see several flashbacks of Evelyn’s previous life where she defends herself from a vicious woman enemy with elaborate moves that look like they were out of a poor version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (“Media Watch,” IR 3/22/01).

Another key feature of The Mummy Returns is Rick, the Brendan Fraser character, always seems to be shown running. In fact, Hollywood was kind to the Spokane area in releasing this movie on Bloomsday weekend. Worn out runners could easily get tired again as they watched Fraser run faster than even the sun.

The Rock, from the World Wrestling Federation, is given major credit listing in The Mummy Returns. In fact, as the movie begins he is in some battle scenes for 10 minutes that take place in Thebes in 3067 B.C. At the end of the film he comes back as a computer generated monster who tries to kill all the principals in the story.

The Mummy Returns is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Some strong language. Lots of intense violence. In fact so much violence destroys the power of violence to shock.

*****

Some years ago a priest-friend asked if I had ever seen William Petersen in a movie. I said that I didn’t recall ever seeing him. My friend said he was in a 1985 film called To Live and Die in L.A. I watched the performance of Petersen in that gritty and violent film sometime later. Petersen did an excellent job of acting in a rather dark and hopeless film.

My friend told me that he had met Petersen when he was a high school student in the Boise area in the 1970s and belonged to a parish youth group. He had come out west from Chicago to live with extended family members.

So I was pleased to see Petersen playing the main character in CBS’s new series CSI. CSI is short for Crime Scene Investigation. It has become somewhat of a surprise hit of the most recent season. It did very well when first scheduled on Friday night. CSI hit the big time as it was moved to Thursdays at 9 p.m., following the big hit Survivor.

Teachers should be very pleased with the success of CSI. The story of the night criminalists of the Las Vegas police force brings the pursuit of the scientific method to the forefront in popular entertainment. CSI is doing for science what The West Wing has been doing for American History and Civics for the last two years.

Gil Grissom (Petersen) is the head of the night crew of forensics experts who seek to find the almost invisible evidence at crime scenes in the glitzy city of southern Nevada. Among his colleagues are Catherine Willows (Marge Heigenberger), Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), Nick Stokes (George Eads) and Sara Sidel (Jorja Fox).

The early episodes dealt with the personal lives of the crew. For example, Warrick Brown had a problem with gambling. Catherine Willows, if my memory is right, had real difficulties balancing her professional life with her responsibilities as a single parent.

The last two episodes I have seen have been more traditional “whodunits” with a great deal of emphasis on the use of science in determining the criminal. A recent episode included a sidebar on the killing of gorillas for their fur and other valuables.

CSI at times can get a little preachy for a cause. Admittedly, The West Wing has a tendency to do the same. Maybe that is a good thing. It certainly makes us aware of some issues that can easily pass over our radar. If we disagree with the editorializing we can talk about it with others or even seek more information on all sides of an issue.

Each episode of CSI fulfills the goal of entertaining and educating. The average person can come away with some new understanding of the science used in crime fighting. William Petersen does a fine job as the wise boss who almost seems obsessed with dead bodies and insects. The supporting actors are all very serviceable for their characters.

There are scenes of dead bodies that will make this series tough for some. But it is kind of difficult to talk about forensics without some cadavers in the show.

CSI probably will not go down as a classic in the years ahead. But CSI is a very entertaining television program that does bring new understanding to us about a world few of us, I hope, will ever directly encounter.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and diocesan Ecumenical Relations Officer.)


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