The mummy fights back

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Six words I never thought I’d say: I feel your pain, Tom Cruise. Not lit­er­ally, you un­der­stand, al­though I did wince as I watched my favourite ac­tor (circa 1988) slam into the side of a London sky­scraper this week.

The Hol­ly­wood hunk was do­ing his own stunts on the set of Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble 6 when he missed his mark and mist­imed a roof jump. Some min­ion on the crew sub­se­quently re­leased the footage on­line where, it’s fair to say, com­menters had lit­tle sym­pa­thy.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Cruise. The man is bonkers. Not just be­cause of his be­lief in Scientology, or be­cause he once made an id­iot of him­self jump­ing up on Oprah’s couch, or be­cause Ni­cole Kid­man and Katie Holmes di­vorced him, or even be­cause he now has two bro­ken bones in his an­kle.

None­the­less, I do feel sorry for Cruise be­cause it must be as galling as it is painful to re­alise that, de­spite your sta­tus as a box-of­fice su­per­star, you’re also a 55-year-old man who can no longer leap over tall build­ings in a sin­gle bound.

Mid­dle-age: it catches up with us all even­tu­ally. For me, mother­hood trig­gered the be­gin­ning the end – of my so­cial life, my fig­ure, al­co­hol-free week­nights and rest­ful sleep­ing pat­terns – whereas his lat­est film The Mummy hasn’t been kind to Cruise.

Its ap­proval rat­ing on rot­ten­toma­ sits at 16 per cent, which is about as rot­ten as a rot­ten to­mato can be. I say this with some author­ity, hav­ing rot­ted my fair share of to­ma­toes both un­in­ten­tion­ally (for­got­ten under the black­en­ing bananas in our fruit bowl) and in­ten­tion­ally (be­cause fer­ment­ing the gel-like pulp off freshly saved seeds is said to aid ger­mi­na­tion).

Crit­ics have sav­aged The Mummy. Syd­ney re­viewer Cameron Wil­liams de­scribed it as ‘‘a film that ap­proaches Cruise like it’s 1996’’. C’mon. That’s a bit mean. In 1996, Cruise was show­ing Cuba Good­ing Jnr the money and ro­manc­ing Re­nee ‘‘you had me at hello’’ Zell­weger in Jerry Maguire .It was In­ter­na­tional Year for the Erad­i­ca­tion of Poverty (not a howl­ing suc­cess), Charles and Di­ana got di­vorced, sci­en­tists cloned Dolly the sheep, and IBM’s Deep Blue com­puter beat Garry Kas­parov for the first time.

I doubt any­one feels par­tic­u­larly nos­tal­gic for 1996 but, if you do, I urge you to join your lo­cal gym and step through a pro­tein-fu­elled por­tal to the past.

When I first joined a gym, Suzy Aitken was teach­ing step aer­o­bics. Not much has changed since then, for gyms are time cap­sules of testos­terone, wall-to-wall ly­cra, goa­tee beards and buff peo­ple do­ing burpees.

For the unini­ti­ated, the burpee is to fit­ness what kale and co­conut sugar are to food. Also known as a squad thrust, it’s a par­tic­u­larly sadis­tic move in­vented in the 1930s by New York phys­i­ol­o­gist Royal Hud­dle­ston Burpee, and later adopted as a means of pun­ish­ing re­cruits in the US mil­i­tary and mid­dle-aged women in Hunua.

In 2014, a 25-year-old from South Carolina set two new world records do­ing burpees for char­ity. Cameron Dorn nailed 5,657 burpees in 12 hours and kept go­ing, rack­ing up 10,105 burpees in 24 hours. He has noth­ing to fear from me. There are many in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Burpee’s orig­i­nal ma­noeu­vre. There are push-up and pull-up burpees; four-, six- and eight­count burpees; and box-jump, broad­jump, jump-ups, jump-over, tuck­jump and long-jump burpees. Let me tell you, they all hurt.

Mind you, I’ve never met an ex­er­cise I liked and it’s not for want of try­ing. Over the years I’ve joined net­ball, soc­cer and vol­ley­ball teams. I’ve played ten­nis and bad­minton. I’ve swum laps of the pool and body­surfed at the beach. I’ve wa­ter­ski­ied and walked the dog.

Six other words I never thought I’d say: I have taken up box­ing classes.

Who knew? Who knew smack­ing the crap out of some­thing could feel so free­ing? With ev­ery girly hook, jab and up­per­cut to the punch­ing bag, I can feel my stress lev­els abat­ing. On an adren­a­line high af­ter my first class, I phoned a 40-some­thing friend who has re­cently con­verted to the cult of CrossFit. ‘‘I think,’’ I told her breath­lessly, ‘‘that af­ter 43 years of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, I have fi­nally found an en­joy­able form of ex­er­cise.’’

Not be­cause I was any good at it (‘‘hit me harder,’’ barked the in­struc­tor as I half-heart­edly tried to main­tain the func­tion­ing use of my free­lancer’s fin­gers), but be­cause what I’d ex­pected to be a one-hour class was over in 45 min­utes.


It’s not 1996 any more... At 55, Tom Cruise can no longer leap over tall build­ings in a sin­gle bound.

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