Writer/director Steven Sommers' follow-up to his unexpected early-summer 1999 smash The Mummy cranks up the number of characters, locations, and special effects from the first film, but the overall result is a sequel that's more anesthetizing than exhilarating. Part of what made The Mummy such a welcome surprise was its economy: The plot was little more than an excuse for a series of increasingly more exciting action set pieces, and it afforded star Brendan Fraser plenty of room for sly winks at the audience. This time around, the action scenes seem as if they're deployed in metronomic, ten-minute intervals, and Fraser's "offhand" comments feel clumsily scripted. Worse yet, there seems to have been a last-minute effort to cater to the audiences who complained that The Mummy Returns' trailer was too shocking when it premiered before 2000's Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The film is virtually gore-free, and Sommers has an annoying tendency of fading out of major action scenes just as they get going (when our heroes get swept up by a tidal wave, for example, we're allowed only to see the aftermath). On the plus side, Sommers has beefed up the roles for heroine Rachel Weisz and alluring vamp Patricia Velazquez, although their silly reincarnation flashback clutters the film. It's one of many moments in The Mummy Returns -- which incorporates elements of Crouching Tiger, Gladiator, The Phantom Menace, and every other successful action movie released between 1998 and 2001 -- that belies Sommers' desperation more than anything else.