Journey to the Center of the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

It’s completely geeky to admit it, but I have a thing for Brendan Fraser, even if his website is woefully out of date. It’s even more neglected than this blog has been lately. Dusty, cobwebby, and sort of forgotten, but still nice to visit from time to time. Anyway, true confessions time: He’d totally be on my freebie list. If I had one. Which I don’t.

Needless to say, this summer has been a feast of Fraser at the movies, what with Disney giving us a new version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was cute, but a bit too short and not terribly well written (well, I had to see it. I’m a Jules Verne fan too.), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor which also needed some script help, I thought (the prologue was long enough that for a while I thought it was a short film called “Exposition.”), and Rachel Weisz has been replaced by Maria Bello (who brought a fresh interpretation of Evelyn), which was disappointing at first, but then wasn’t, after all, but it was still a great escapist romp.

We saw Journey…, the same weekend we saw Mamma Mia. The same day, even, and we saw The Mummy last night at Studio Movie Grill, combining it with dinner. (Their turkey burgers with sweet potato fries are really good, btw.) I was surprised that The Dark Knight was still selling out shows, and that Step Brothers was sold out – it’s on my list of “movies I would gouge my eyes out before paying to see,” after all, but I recognize that many people like sophomoric humor. I don’t. I never have. I don’t like slapstick, and I also don’t like animation. A lot. Especially animated slapstick.

In any case, the theaters were full for both Fraser films, and our fellow audience members were into both films. Last night, especially. I like it when a film can make the audience respond with cheers and laughter, when it really is engaging enough to trigger the willful suspense of disbelief and when you find yourself applauding at the end, even though you KNOW it’s a film and no one can hear you.

This isn’t a review, so much as a ramble, and one of the topics I wanted to address is that my affection for Fraser’s work has to do with his finesse at playing against type. We expect someone who looks like him to be a perfect action hero, but he brings just enough silly that his performance becomes, not a pale imitation of folks like Harrison Ford (as Indiana Jones), but an homage to them. He has this great knack of being just a little bit bimbo-esque but with intelligence in his eyes.

And yet, he also has range. Go rent Gods and Monsters or The Quiet American if you don’t believe me.

In any case, I’d recommend Journey to the Center of the Earth for the tween crowd and their parents, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for pretty much anyone, and I’m not just saying that because I really like the setting of Shanghai in the ’40s, either.