'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb': Film Review
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams and the gang reunite for one final exhibit
It’s been eight years since the exhibits first came to life in high-concept, low-brow Night at the Museum, and after itself exhibiting a bit more life with a peppy 2009 sequel, the franchise is seriously showing its age with what is purported to be its final installment.
Despite relocating across the pond to the esteemed British Museum, the creaky Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb fails to capitalize on the comic potential provided by that change of venue.
Instead it plays like a contractual obligation with original director Shawn Levy, Ben Stiller and company (including Robin Williams in his final screen performance) content to simply reprise the funnier bits from the previous two movies.
While the dispiritingly dull, poorly-paced upshot will probably still unearth untold riches for 20th Century Fox (the first two Museum outings earned some $988 million between them), it’s still a shame the franchise couldn’t have gone out on a more energetic note.
After an Indiana Jones-style prologue set in 1938, the action moves to present day, where recently-promoted director of nighttime operations Larry Daley (Stiller) discovers those life-like exhibits have developed a disturbing glitch.
Tracing the cause to the Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) rapidly corroding golden tablet, Daley makes a pilgrimage to London, accompanied by his son Nicky (with Skyler Gisondo taking over from Jake Cherry) to confer with Ahkmenrah’s dad (the always welcome Ben Kingsley).
But even with added attractions Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens), Rebel Wilson (as a bubbly security guard) and a bunch of cameos, including Hugh Jackman and Andrea Martin, the film still feels like a tired relic.
There’s also an undeniable element of melancholy in seeing Williams (reprising his Teddy Roosevelt) in his swan song, and even though the script by David Guion and Michael Handelman (Dinner for Schmucks) doesn’t give him much to do, he looks tired throughout.
The film also marks the penultimate appearance of the late Mickey Rooney, briefly reunited here along with Dick Van Dyke and Ernest Tubbs.
Read More: Shawn Levy Exits Warner Bros.' 'Minecraft'
Even when Stiller and director Levy attempt to do something different here, like having Stiller also play the part of his prehistoric ancestor, the clearly improvised interplay fails to match some of the welcome goofy irreverence provided by Hank Azaria and Jonah Hill back at the Smithsonian.
Time to hang up the “Closed for Renovation” sign.
Production companies: 21 Laps, 1492 Pictures
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson.
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriters: David Guion & Michael Handelman
Producers: Shawn Levy, Christopher Columbus, Mark Radcliffe
Executive producers: Mary McLaglen, Josh McLaglen, Dan Levine
Director of photography: Guillermo Navarro
Production designer: Martin Whist
Costume designer: Marlene Stewart
Editor: Dean Zimmerman
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Casting directors: Heike Brandstatter, Coreen Mayrs
Rated PG, 97 minutes