'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb'
The ‘Night at the Museum’ series refuses to go away despite being a consistent punching bag. In this third title, the franchise is as charmingly mediocre as ever. These movies aren’t art, nor do they offer particularly interesting entertainment. However, they do what they do fairly effectively, and the cast that has signed onto the series over the course of three movies is strong enough to avoid delivering a total washout. This third chapter is just as disposably pleasant as the last two.
The film opens up with Ben Stiller’s night watchman supervising the launch of a new “special effects” driven night tour at New York’s Natural History Museum. Of course, there are no actual special effects involved. Instead Ricky Gervais’ smarmy museum manager has decided to profit off the way his museum comes to life each night.
Predictably, the big event goes wrong. Robin Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt leads an unexpected attack from all the historical mascots. It turns out that the magical Egyptian tablet that brings the museum to life is losing its power or something, causing the living legends to behave erratically. Eventually, they’ll stop coming to life altogether. Stiller quickly learns that all the problems can be solved with a trip to the London Museum. So he, Williams/Roosevelt, a monkey, Owen Wilson’s cowboy, Steve Coogan’s Roman and a Stiller caveman all fly to the UK to save the tablet. Once there, they meet up with Ben Kingsley’s pharaoh, who knows how to set things right, as well as Dan Stevens’ Lancelot and Rebel Wilson’s British nightwatchwoman, who offer a few laughs apiece.
Once again, this is another very silly and insubstantial kiddie flick offering no redeeming educational value despite all the historical figures on display. Nope, it’s essentially a romp with some famous names that young viewers might recognize one day in history class. Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s a little strange. The narrative is comprised of a series of forced stakes in place purely to justify all the cameos and jokes. The hit-to-miss ratio on those jokes is not particularly high, but just enough hit to justify the film’s existence.
As usual, Shawn Levy’s direction is professional, workmanlike, and completely devoid of any personality. His job is to deliver a movie that is fast-ish paced and safely mainstream, and he does his job adequately. ‘Night of the Museum 3’ is fine across the board and only occasionally crappy.
The real pleasures of the movie are the goofy performances from slumming stars, of which there are plenty here. Rebel Wilson maintains her status as a scene-stealer. Ricky Gervais does his usual shtick. Robin Williams trots gamely out into what was tragically his final performance. Dan Stevens puts far more effort into his role than it deserves, and any movie that makes a buddy comedy team out of Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan does at least one thing right. Even Stiller gets to mug it up as a caveman so that he’s not limited to boring straight-man duties.
With that many talented comics kind-of trying, the movie is never completely devoid of pleasure. However, it’s also never completely successful. It’s a deeply mediocre effort like the last two. It has been suggested that this is the final film in the series, yet it sets up Wilson as a possible protagonist for another sequel. Who knows if it will continue? More importantly, who cares?
As far as pointless, empty family comedies go, this series is far from the best and not nearly the worst. If it ends now, fine. If the producers squeeze out one more of these things, whatever. There are worse ways to waste your time than staring blankly at one of these movies and occasionally giggling.