Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hallmark's "The Curse of King Tut's Tomb" sadly inept

"It?s 1922, and free-spirited archaeologist Danny Freemont is infamous for his outlandish theories about the pyramids, Atlantis, alien civilizations, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Freemont is certain that if found, the Emerald Tablet, rumored to be buried in King Tut?s tomb, would hold the power to control the world. Unfortunately, the only one who believes Freemont is nefarious archaeologist Morgan Sinclair, a member of the diabolical secret cabal known as the Hellfire Council.

Sinclair wants the tablet to summon and harness an invincible evil, and he?s fully prepared to follow Freemont to the ends of the earth to get it. With the help of a crackerjack team, Freemont will venture into the Valley of the Kings, toward Tut?s tomb, nearer the portal to another world, and closer to the truth behind a mystery that will change the world forever?or end it."

With Hollywood squandering so much money on films with little plot but tsunamis of violence, I truly commend production companies that are attempting to create inspiring films that target a cross section of the viewing audience instead of the seemingly bizarre tastes of adolescent (18 - 25 year-old) males.

The Hallmark Channel, capitalizing on its well-earned reputation for quality enterntainment, showcases a number of these family-friendly films. Some of them, often produced by Larry Levinson Productions, are well made with good (if relatively unknown) actors. "Love's Long Journey", a story of a young 19th century couple's efforts to build a successful cattle ranch, featured an interesting ensemble of actors, and a few plot twists that helped it rise above the overworked B-western theme. It's prequel, "Love's Enduring Promise" was equally well done. Of course, both of these films were written by Michael Landon Jr. and the young writer seems to have inherited his father's "feel" for creating uplifting stories from the lives of everyday people.

Hallmark's "The Odyssey" followed the classical story pretty closely and although their "Jason and the Argonauts" suffered from a really amateur lead, it moved along nicely and had some good supporting roles. But when it comes to action/adventure films, Hallmark and/or Levinson cannot seem to strike the right chord. "The Curse of King Tut's Tomb" not only suffered from terrible acting (mostly attributed to Casper Van Dien) but from the overall air that none of its cast took the story seriously. Of course, I guess you could hardly blame them since it seemed to be a badly blended mixture of the recent "Mummy" sequel that introduced the legend of the Scorpion King and a pathetic remake of Indiana Jones. In fact, several measures of the background music were barely disguised excerpts from John Williams "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" theme.

In addition to a muddled plot (if, in fact, you could call it that), Van Dien's archaeologist, a bumbling n'er do well with two sidekicks that brought neither comic relief nor useful expertise to the story, evoked little empathy (or sympathy). Why any university would ever hire him or a talented, beautiful, respectable archaeologist would be attracted to him is, frankly, beyond me. Unlike the original Indiana Jones who demonstrated an indepth understanding of ancient history, languages, and symbology and made the audience respect his knowledge despite his unorthodox methods, Van Dien's character would not inspire anyone to consider a study of the past as a fascinating pursuit. He approached the job like an undisciplined child in a sandbox. At least in Indiana Jones, the villain and Jones were equally gifted. Here, the villain (played by Jonathan Hyde of "You musn't read from the book!" fame in 1999's "The Mummy") approachs the undertaking with some professionalism which contrasts starkly with Van Dien's ineptitude.

The only bright spot in the film was the brief appearance of a dynamic young man made up to quite closely resemble the latest Tut facial reconstructions. Next time, Hallmark/Levinson, ditch the rest of the cast and focus on Tut and his efforts to escape the fate Horemheb and/or Ay had planned for him.

No comments: