Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz

Say you're a mummy at large and you want to revive and be reunited with your girlfriend, still slumbering tight inside her dingy bandages. To achieve this end, would you assemble yourself a new body by sucking the juices out of four men? What's wrong with a healthy diet and rest? Would you unleash plagues of insects, send the sun into eclipse? This sounds more like acting out. And do you really need a mob of boil-covered Egyptian zombies following behind you, chanting your name? Maybe they're so beat because they have to keep chanting, "Imhotep! Imhotep! Imhotep!" Ask yourself: Can the girl be worth all the work?

But so it goes with this overblown horror movie, which owes as much to the Indiana Jones franchise as to the 1932 Boris Karloff classic. Fraser, an American adventurer in Egypt in 1923, goes nosing around in ancient tombs with Weisz, a librarian. The two unwittingly free Mr. Imhotep from his sarcophagus. The mummy, in his first incarnation, turns out not to have been properly embalmed by the pharaoh's morticians. He's truly repulsive, a decaying frame of mold and gook. By comparison, Karloff looked as if he'd just come from a seaweed wrap at a day spa. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: It sphinx

Aidan Quinn, James Caan

Theresa Quinn's sons have done her proud. Inspired by a tale their Irishborn mother once told them about a curse cast in the old country years ago, the brothers Quinn—actor Aidan, first-time writer-director Paul and cinematographer Declan—have used it as the starting point for a powerful drama about a doomed romance and class differences in rural Ireland in 1939.

The movie starts out ploddingly in contemporary Chicago, but once it flashes back to its main story, that of the ill-fated love affair in Ireland between a poor, shy farmer (Aidan Quinn) and an impetuous, well-off teenager (Moya Farrelly, a lovely Irish actress), My Father gains emotional sweep. It begins with Caan playing a Chicago schoolteacher who, upon finding an old, faded photo of his now bedridden and mute mother with a man who may have been his father, sets off for the small village in Ireland that his mother left almost 60 years ago. Once there, he finds the residents at first loath to talk about what happened to his mother and the man in the picture, but slowly the sad story unfolds.

Quinn, who has been giving quietly superior performances for years, has never been better, and Farrelly is a find. My Father also showcases such gifted Irish actors as Stephen Rea, who has a wicked comic cameo as a covertly prurient priest (the film takes swipes at Catholicism), Donal Donnelly as Quinn's adoptive father, and Colm Meaney, in a comic gem of a role as a prissy innkeeper. (R)

Bottom Line: Powerful family production

Lu Lu

Set roughly a quarter-century ago, this haunting first directorial effort by Chinese-born actress Joan Chen combines the dreamlike simplicity of a fairy tale with the stone-cold bleakness that, the world knows, characterizes communist history. Under a Maoist program known as the Cultural Youth Revolution, a bright, happy girl named Xiu Xiu (pronounced "show show") is assigned to spend six months learning horse-training from a peasant on the empty plains of Tibet. Months pass, but no one comes to retrieve Xiu Xiu. Unaware that the program has been abandoned, she waits, much like Beauty hoping to be rescued from the Beast. Then she comes undone. Lu Lu, a Chinese actress who was 16 at the time of filming in '97, makes her degradation so complete, it's hard to believe the same woman plays the part throughout.

Chen (The Last Emperor) filmed Xiu Xiu on location in Tibet. But Chinese officials, after viewing the finished product, banned its showing in China. Well, maybe after the next cultural revolution. (R)

Bottom Line: Quiet but powerful tale of girlish innocence destroyed

Michael Caton, Anne Tenney

At first this appealingly shaggy Australian comedy, shot in only 11 days for a measly $500,000, plays like the Down Under version of The Stupids (a 1996 dud about a really dumb family starring Tom Arnold as the pea-brained patriarch, for those lucky enough to have missed it). But The Castle soon hits its comic stride and completely wins you over as it follows the loopy legal struggle of a dim-witted, family-loving tow-truck driver (Caton) to keep the government from seizing his ramshackle house, which lies in the pathway of a planned expansion of the Melbourne airport. What makes The Castle so much fun? As the inept lawyer hired by Caton to save his house argues before a perplexed judge, "It's just the vibe of it." (R)

Bottom Line: Down Under comedy goes over big

>ELECTION We adore this movie. In tracking a high school student council race, it is savagely funny while also managing to say something profound about its lead characters' capacity for self-deception. Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon star. (R)

GO

Here's another teen-young adult movie that transcends age boundaries. The hyperactive Go offers a fun—if ultimately meaningless—whirligig of a ride while following interconnected characters over the course of a single frantic night. (R)

GET REAL In this charming and touching British drama, coming-of-age woes are compounded by the stress of coming out of the closet. Ben Silverstone winningly plays the movie's teen hero, and Brad Gorton is the confused gay object of his affection. (R)

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen.