I don’t think anyone thought we’d be seeing a franchise born when Night at the Museum first hit. The movie was plenty fun and surprisingly creative with a solid message that really didn’t need to be revisited. Then it was, and it was OK. And now it is yet again with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
Of course overshadowing almost all of this is the fact that Secret of the Tomb will be the last time we get to see Robin Williams on the big screen in a new movie. This is his last role to hit theaters and for that, no matter what the quality of the film is, we should be thankful. One more chance to see him work his magic is well worth watching any film.
Night at the Museum
Director: Sean Levy
Release Date: December 19, 2014
This third film sets out to wrap up the tale of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), night watchmen New York’s Museum of Natural History, where a magic tablet has been making the exhibits come to life every night for decades. This time the tablet’s origins come to light as it starts to rust and cause issues for all of the exhibits. In order to solve the problem Larry travels to the UK to awaken Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) parents, who evidently the created the thing. Of course the entire gang from the previous two films comes along including the monkey, Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Octavious (Steve Coogan) Jedediah (Own Wilson), Sacajawea (Mizou Peck) and Laaa (Stiller). Throw in the newcomer, Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) and you’ve got yourself a whole new adventure as the British Musueum of Natural history comes to life for the first time.
For the most part Secret of the Tomb is harmless. The gags aren’t that fresh, the concept isn’t new and there’s nothing really at the British Museum that we haven’t seen come to life in the previous two films. Sure, it’s cool to see famous exhibits jump into action, but it all feels a bit like we’ve been here and done that before. The movie’s plot is about as thin as some of the ancient scrolls that show up in it and clearly only thrown together to make another movie warranted.
That isn’t to say you won’t have some fun. There’s gags enough to giggle at and despite monkey’s being the literal bottom of the barrel for comedy, it’s still a monkey. Stiller once again nails his straight man as the leader of a bunch of misfits, but the lackadaisical comedy never shines and the gleam has worn off the museum coming to life concept. Meanwhile the movie’s themes are mushed together and murky as Larry attempts to watch his son turn into a man. The problem is there’s not any actual growth in between the humor.
It may also be that things feel so flat because they visually look it. The special effects for the film look like they were taken from the original. Whatever budget the film has was definitely not spent on CGI or sets, and except for a few key moments where extra time was clearly spent the concept of things coming to life is pretty much ruined by the poor looks of the film. Tiny Octavious and Jedediah are especially poorly done as the tromp around scenes looking like they were plucked from the green screen of an early 90s film.
It is important to make note that Williams is both fantastic and underutilized. His character of Roosevelt has been a stand out in the films to the point that you wish the guy had gotten an actual bio-pic for him. Sadly, he isn’t the focus of the film so he’s often shunted to the side, but when he is on screen it’s enjoyable. He also gets the final goodbye, mounting a horse and smiling to the camera one last time. I’m sure the scene is more powerful than it ever would have been simply because of his death, but it is nice to think of him sitting there in perpetuity, able to come back to life with the simple use of a magic tablet.
Williams may not have gone out on his highest note with Secret of the Tomb, but the film does give him a goodbye that highlights what he did best: had fun. The movie itself is harmless and needless and would have been forgotten by the ages if it weren’t for the fact that it gave us one last chance to remember something greater.