So, The Mummy. The question that bedevils me as I begin this review is how I can get to the end of it. Like Lucy in Peanuts, I am now counting words to see how quickly I can get to 700, which fills my slot here at The Weekly Standard. That was 53 words. I’m 8 percent of the way there. Can I make it?
If this were Twitter, I’d put up a poll. On the one hand, there’s the fact that I have nothing to say about this movie except that it’s dreadful, so maybe I should just give up. On the other hand, there’s the fact that I have three kids in private school and the monthly tuition bill is due and I need the money from this review to help pay it. Will mercenary concerns win out over a complete lack of creative inspiration? Vote now!
If you’re reading this, and I have no idea as I write these very words whether my old friends at The Weekly Standard—who are not only very fine people but owe me something because I helped create the magazine 22 years ago—will allow you to, that means mercenary concerns won out over creative inspiration. Hey, look, 206 words. I’m getting there.
Tom Cruise is in The Mummy. Tom Cruise is two years younger than I am and has the body of a 25-year-old. I have the body of the Pillsbury Doughboy with a torn meniscus and sleep apnea. So perhaps you will think I am speaking out of envy when I say that while Tom Cruise’s six-pack is very impressive, his acting is so dreadfully bad in this movie you will wonder whether he ever was good. The answer is yes, he was; in fact, only three years ago, he was wonderful in Edge of Tomorrow.
But at some point this person is going to have to act his age. His fellow Tom—Mr. Hanks—became a star in the same twelvemonth Cruise did. He’s only six years older than Cruise. He will play a man his age, as he did in Sully. He has allowed himself to be a real person rather than someone on the verge of being a waxwork figure. He’s also not a Scientologist, but maybe I shouldn’t go there, even though I could really use that independ-ent clause in this sentence to keep the word count going. (In case you were wondering—408.)
Cruise also used to pick better material. His vanity allowed him to take the role of Jack Reacher, who is 6’5″ tall in Lee Child’s novels and perpetually around 35 years old. Cruise wants to be perpetually around 35 years old. The only person who was ever perpetually 35 was Dick Clark—and when Dick Clark got old he got old so fast it was like someone sold the portrait of Dorian Gray at a yard sale.
Cruise did The Mummy in order to front a new cinematic “Dark Universe” for Universal, which is trying to resuscitate its ancient studio’s ancient horror-movie monster characters in a series of interlocking pictures. There will be a Bride of Frankenstein, for example, who I assume will be an empowered heroine for our time, a kind of Wonder Monstress.
In The Mummy, Russell Crowe (who makes me look skinny) plays Dr. Jekyll, who of course has a lot to do with mummies because .  .  . no, it makes no sense that he’s in this movie except that he’s going to be in all the “Dark Universe” movies, I guess. And it’s hard to remember that Crowe was once a really great actor because he’s so awful here he makes Cruise’s horrendous performance seem like the risen Olivier.
There’s a plot. Cruise is an antiquity thief. He gets possessed or controlled or dominated, or something, by a female mummy who was a sorceress in Egypt. Dr. Jekyll is trying to save the world from eeeeeeeeevil. In the end, Cruise turns into some kind of good-guy monster after saying “we’re not going to happen, and it’s not me, it’s you” to the Mummy chick. Yes, someone wrote that line. Maybe he needed to get to 700 words.
I just have.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is The Weekly Standard‘s movie critic.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard