Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Rebel Wilson, Ben Kingsley
Release Date: December 19th, 2014
If you think that the only thing missing from the volcanic eruption in ancient Pompeii was a urinating monkey, cheapest you’re in luck. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb offers that and a whole lot more crude and cringe-worthy “comedy.”
The Night at the Museum series, medicine which hopefully ends after this film hits theaters, was built with a solid family-friendly foundation. The original told the story of a down-on-his luck night security guard (played by an amiable Ben Stiller) at the Museum of Natural History who discovers that the artifacts, historical figures and statues come alive at night.
Such a concept can provide great laughs and brilliant drama when it’s done correctly. The original Toy Story (1995) embraced this idea with toys coming to life, rather than artifacts, during a boy’s formidable years. In that scenario, the boy didn’t realize his toys came to life– unlike here, where the guard does realize it– but in many ways that series could easily be compared to the Night at the Museum one, save for one major detail.
The Toy Story franchise offered up a beautiful burst of imagination while the Museum films have often settled for more mundane comedy.
The original Night at the Museum (2006) worked as an energetic but mild comedy. I remember watching it nearly a decade ago and enjoying it for what it was. Sadly, the series’ third installment is an absolute mess, offering up an ugly mix of crass humor and urinary jokes to coincide with its lame and easily-forgettable plot.
The concept of this series has gotten old and director Shawn Levy, who previously helmed its two predecessors and this year’s atrocious This is where I Leave you, should move on from this tired idea.
The flimsy plot of this sequel focuses on the tablet that brings all of the museum’s displays to life slowly losing its power. Larry (Stiller) discovers this when— during a major fundraising event— the cast of mischievous figures lose their perspective and begin acting strangely. (In one of the story’s numerous plot holes, the tablet’s diminishing power sometimes confuses the historical figures while at other times it just slows them down.) Larry, on a voyage to restore the tablet’s power with his rambunctious son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) and some of the memorable museum characters, ventures to London to learn about the tablet’s history at a museum guarded by the naïve Tilly (Rebel Wilson).
Many of the main characters from the series return for this third installment with funnymen Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais all playing minor parts to little avail. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) joins the cast as Sir Lancelot, a man who mistakenly believes that the tablet is his Holy Grail.
Robin Williams again plays the loveable Teddy Roosevelt here and it’s bittersweet to watch him in one of his final onscreen appearances. Other than that, this (hopefully) final chapter has little to offer viewers interested in either history or comedy. This idea has simply run its course and it’s obvious here that there’s nothing new for this Museum to offer.
Review by: John Hanlon