Needle drops have become more and more of a popular addition in film over the last year. The notion of having a song not written for the film – often one that already has a sense of notoriety – and inject it into proceedings has been utilised to either enhance a physical sequence or, perhaps, distract viewers from what’s an otherwise rather ordinary set-piece and fool them into thinking it’s cutting edge.
Of all the films we have seen adopt this practice – and for all the film across 2023 that are likely to do so – none will match the creative decisions made throughout Mummies.
The film itself is a bizarre, fascinatingly awful amalgamation of straight-to-video quality animation and a narrative that invites its viewers into a potentially enchanting after-world, but forgets to lay any foundation in the process; I’m all for easing up on exposition, but at least one scene could have helped catch us all up on what exactly is going on in the Egyptian underworld Mummies would like us to invest in.
What initially feels like ancient Egypt is then quickly framed as the present day, but in this underworld the residents live away from the technological advances of the outside world and, as we quickly find out, still practice the art of arranged marriages; we also learn that the Pharaoh (voiced by Sean Bean) controls the night and day shades of the sky through a mechanical contraption, but, sure, let’s not let anyone here use a mobile.
The Pharaoh’s daughter, Nefer (Eleanor Tomlinson), wants more than what society expects of her (don’t we all?), and because screenwriters Jordi Gasull (Tad: The Explorer) and Javier Barreira (Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas) think a wacky adventure where shielded Egyptians take on the everyday advancements of the “real world” is just enough of a narrative to fulfil a 90-minute brief, she is thrust into present day London, with the Macguffin of an ancient ring belonging to her family falling into the clutches of an evil archaeologist, Lord Carnaby (Hugh Bonneville), enough of a reason to switch settings.
Of course, our young Nefer isn’t alone, with Thut (Joe Thomas), a former charioteer, his younger brother and their pet baby crocodile (why not?) along for the “adventure”. I use quotation marks, because as much as Mummies serves up its share of chase sequences around the streets of London – the basic throughline is Carnaby and the Mummies alternate chasing each other for the ring – there’s an awful lot of time spent on Nefer’s desire to become a pop star (without any warning we are subjected to a musical number of her expressing her desires no less than 10 minutes into the up-to-that-point-very-non-musical-alluding-film) and how a ridiculous music producer (Shakka) can make that dream achievable.
Despite not knowing what a music studio is, let alone a microphone or the process of recording, Nefer’s one-take ditty is a global success; though, it would appear Gasull and Barreira aren’t aware of how song releases work either, with Nefer’s song climbing the charts drastically in a manner that suggests weeks of incline, but apparently happens within a day or two. It’s bombastic sequences like that and when she interrupts a Broadway musical (Aida, fittingly) to sing on stage, thinking what’s taking place is real and not scripted, that continues to add to Mummies‘ inexplicable structure.
It goes without saying that Nefer prefers the modern world, and because we all know that the constant arguing with Thut is because the sexual tension is rife, it leads to the poor chap lamenting about returning to his world. Enter the spectacular needle drop that is Nickelback. Yes. In 2023, Nickelback’s “Far Away” is being utilised to underscore lost love. And, honestly, I’m here for it. The use of the song perfectly sums up my feelings towards Mummies. It’s horrifically bad, but, my word, is it engrossing in every decision it makes.
Given how spoilt audiences have been lately with their choice of animation, something like Mummies pales even less in comparison. Young audiences are likely to be unbothered by its nonsensical plotting, especially with a Kidz Bop-ready soundtrack (bar Nickelback), an admittedly cute baby crocodile (who even squeaks with all the baritone sophistication of a dog’s chew toy), and a kinetic pace that allows little time to process its story, but, unfairly, this hasn’t been designed for parents or even those who like animated productions to enjoy as a bystander. Engrossing it may be for all the wrong reasons, these Mummies are best left to desiccate as history intended.
ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Mummies is screening in Australian theatres from January 5th, 2023. International locations will follow throughout 2023.