By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 16, 2001 at 1:23 AM

Summer movies keep getting worse and worse, year by year and movie by movie. This year, the horrifyingly awful "The Mummy Returns" unofficially kicked off the summer movie season, followed by the mind-numbingly stupid "A Knight's Tale" and the abysmally disgraceful "Pearl Harbor."

But fear not. Things can and do get worse. "Tomb Raider" is just as bad, if not worse, as all of the above. It will undoubtedly compete for worst movie of the summer, if not the year.

Oscar winning actress Angelina Jolie ("Girl, Interrupted") stars as Lara Croft. The audience is introduced to her as she fights a huge robot. This kicks off 95 minutes of overblown action scenes and headache-inducing editing.

After defeating the pesky robot, Lara walks over to her sidekick, Bryce (Noah Taylor), the king of computer nerds. It turns out she was just going through a training exercise in her home, a massive mansion that looks curiously like a massive film set.

One evening, while dreaming about her late father, Lara hears a ticking noise. She finds an old clock hidden in her house. Inside the clock is some kind of an ancient key. An old antiques expert friend recommends that Lara speak to a man named Manfred Powell (Iain Glen). He might be able to tell her what she has found.

Apparently, the key can somehow be used to control time, and Powell wants it for himself. He has his goons break into the Croft estate late one night and steal it. Before they do, Lara puts up a fight, and the viewer is subjected to another over the top and silly action sequence.

Now Lara must go to a tomb in Cambodia and attempt to retrieve the key from Powell. Inside the tomb, there is yet another action sequence, this one much worse than the others. Lara, Powell and his men battle an army of stone statues that come to life. The statues are nothing more than fancy computer generated images that look incredibly fake and are not even remotely menacing.

"Tomb Raider" makes absolutely no sense. There really is no story. Instead there are four or five action set pieces all strung together, each one intended to top the other.

Not once does the film bother to try and develop the characters a little. Powell is your typical villain while Bryce spits off countless one liners in a role intended as comic relief. None are funny.

Jolie, though she looks the part, is given nothing to do except wear tight clothes, show off her ample chest region and repeatedly fire two pistols she never leaves the house without.

"Tomb Raider" typifies all that is wrong with Hollywood and "summer event" movies: lazy writing, too many poor special effects, shameless overacting, uninspired directing and not even a hint of an original idea to be found anywhere.

Grade: F

"Tomb Raider" is in theatres everywhere.