The title of this Warner Bros. animated feature says it all and since it’s about mummies, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear a thematically relevant needle drop featuring The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ playing in the background. And that is not all since one of the main characters – Princess Nefer (voiced by Eleanor Tomlinson) – even sings the song at one point in the movie. No problem with that. But Nickelback? Really? The Canadian rock band who gave us ‘How You Remind Me’ and ‘Too Bad? Regarding the needle drop that played one of Nickelback’s songs, you just have to find out yourself when you get the chance to watch ‘Mummies’ in the cinema. All I can say it feels corny and awkwardly misplaced it made me cringe hearing the Nickelback song played in one of the scenes in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of some of Nickelback’s songs back in their heydays in the 2000s. But it just doesn’t sound right in the movie.
As for the story itself – credited to Jordi Gasull and Javier López Barreira – alongside Juan Jesús García Galocha, marking his first time as the director. He spent the last few years in charge of art-directed animation shorts and features such as ‘La mano de Nefertiti’ (2012) and ‘Tad, the Lost Explorer, and the Secret of King Midas’ (2017). ‘Mummies’ pretty much treads on familiar ground that we have seen countless times before in the family-friendly animated features. Stop us if you come across this type of story before: Following a near-death accident during a chariot race, the once-renowned Thut (Joe Thomas) rather spends his days signing autographs for his fans.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh (Sean Bean) wants his princess-daughter Nefer to get married as per customs, even though Nefer is against her father’s wish for an arranged marriage. You see, Nefer isn’t your average Egyptian princess who obeys every wish and command. She may dress traditionally but her mindset is rather unorthodox. She’s a liberal and free-thinking princess who values freedom rather than having someone tell her what she needs to do.
Of course, things do not go her way when Thut is ‘chosen’ to wed Nefer. The usual bickering mismatched-couple moments ensues as both of them hardly get along at first. Until an incident that involved a wealthy archaeologist, Lord Carnaby (Hugh Bonneville) and his two dim-witted goons Danny and Dennys (both voiced by Dan Starkey) steal the precious wedding ring during their archaeological dig, which also leads them to the discovery of the secret underground city.
After Thut realized the ring has been stolen, he determines to get it back at all costs or suffers a severe punishment. And so, he set out on a journey with his younger brother, Sekhem (Jaume Solà), and their pet baby crocodile from their underground city in Egypt to present-day London. Likewise, no journey would be complete without trouble tagging along and that trouble in question turns out to be Nefer.
From there, it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy as they try to get familiarize themselves with the foreign environment in present-day London. Some jokes are worthy of a few chuckles, namely the part where the titular mummies assume a motor vehicle is a chariot. But the rest of them mostly miss the marks with either dated or overused humor and slapstick comedies. The animation looks decent enough for what is (well, not every animation has to look like a Pixar) – all eye-catching vibrant, and colorful while the movements, particularly some of the action-packed moments such as the opening ‘Ben Hur’-like chariot race sequence and the climactic double-decker chase are fluidly animated.
The lead characters including Joe Thomas and Eleanor Tomlinson, who voiced Thut and Princess Nefer respectively do share a likable odd-couple chemistry together. Hugh Bonneville’s evil antagonist turn as Lord Carnaby, in the meantime, is nothing more than your usual garden-variety animated villain while Carnaby’s dim-witted goons’ error-prone comedy moments voiced by Dan Starkey are downright annoying. And so does the recurring gag involving Carnaby’s strict mother (Celia Imrie) and the misinterpreted use of the word “mummy”.
‘Mummies’ also include some obligatory lessons including overcoming your own fear and fulfilling your dream. The latter is especially true with Nefer’s lifelong dream of becoming a singer and she has the opportunity to showcase her vocal prowess after a music producer (Shakka’s Ed) is impressed with her impromptu stage-musical performance.
Overall, it’s all strictly-by-the-numbers stuff in ‘Mummies’ while lacking a fresh, let alone strong angle to the oft-told story related to traditionalism vs. modernity and cultural clashes. The cliché-ridden screenplay doesn’t help much either and its short 88-minute runtime means everything here from the storytelling arc to the character development is perfunctory. Perhaps this kind of overly familiar animated feature like ‘Mummies’ would fare better as a streaming-only release (read: a visual distraction for the kids at home) rather than a theatrical outing.