Review: “Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb” Is Better Than You’d Expect
Title: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriter: David Guion (screenplay and story), Michael Handelman (screenplay and story), Mark Friedman (story), Thomas Lennon (characters), and Robert Ben Garant (characters)
Principal Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Rami Malek, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, and Rebel Wilson
I’ve been sitting here for the better part of ten minutes trying to remember if I’ve seen any of the Night at the Museum movies. I’m fairly sure that I haven’t, which puts me in a different position than other people. This is my first experience with this series, so I like to think I’m looking at this from the angle that the baggage of the previous two movies is non-existent to me. I guess I also don’t have the background from the previous two movies as well, but it seems like there isn’t much of a deep seated mythology here. I didn’t have any expectations going in; if anything I was expecting this movie to be bad.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is pretty empty at the end of the day, but it has enough laughs that kids will love it and adults won’t find it insulting.
Our story picks up with Larry (Ben Stiller), the security guard who knows the secret of the Museum and how it all comes to life. After a rocky start Larry has everything more or less under control. However, during a presentation for a new planet exhibit all of the exhibits including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Ahkmenrach (Rami Malek) an egyptian mummy, Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) miniature exhibits, Jedediah (Owen Wilson) a cowboy and Octavius (Steve Coogan) a roman soldier, they discover that the source of the magic that brings the museum to life is fading. Ahkmenrach says his father Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) is the only one who knows the secret to the tablet, but he’s in the British museum. Larry must travel to England with his son (Skyler Gisondo)) to confront Merenkahre before it’s too, but he’ll also have to face a museum full of exhibits that are coming to life for the first time from the tablet.
As I said I went into this movie with no expectations and no knowledge of the series and, I have to admit, it wasn’t bad. It isn’t going down as an instant classic in the family movie genre, but it accomplishes what it intended to do. The cast has a nice dynamic that comes from working with the same people for multiple movies together. The movie does become incredibly bittersweet whenever Williams or Mickey Rooney are on screen, since their passing this year. As soon as Williams appeared the theater let out this collective sound of sadness. I liked him in this role, and he looks remarkably like Roosevelt. Stiller also does a pretty good job even if he’s really only there to give plenty of “what is my life” looks.
There are some pretty good jokes as well, l though the best is easily a cameo that I won’t spoil that nearly had me in tears from laughing. That probably isn’t a good thing that it was the best joke, but the rest of them work okay. There are a few that go on a bit too long, which surprised me a little considering the movie is only ninety seven minutes and moves at a very brisk pace. This is one of those movies where I felt like more downtime wasn’t really needed. There is a story here, but the running time works for what they are trying to accomplish.
I understand that this isn’t a top tier production, but I wasn’t impressed with the special effects at all. Wilson and Coogan are so obviously behind a green screen that it almost added to the humor at times. I understand that you can’t really shrink someone down that small or create a giant snake demon, but I feel like it could have been better. They are mostly there for flashy distractions, which makes sense considering this is a movie mostly made for children. The way the graphics look won’t bother them, and for the adults in the audience it is really only a momentary distraction.
The movie also drops the ball with female characters. Sacajewea is in almost all of the movie, but it felt like she was a device at best. This is an extremely important character in history and I feel like the movie could have given her more to do than be a sort of love interest and stand in the background. Rebel Wilson is also here as Tilly, the female equivalent to Larry at the British Museum. The trailers have been playing her up for quite a bit of the movie, but she is hardly there. She has a few key scenes but she’s mostly there to make some weirdly out of place remarks and the occasional fat joke, because Wilson is a bigger girl and Hollywood must find some way to make that funny.
The direction by Shawn Levy is fairly paint by numbers. He doesn’t have much of an impressive resume, but I have to give him credit for knowing what a tripod is. There are times when movies intended for kids go for the handheld camera which can make already fast paced movies even more schizophrenic. It’s something that I’ve noticed a lot more since I started reviewing movies, and I don’t remember noticing it while watching Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb. They are also billing this as the last movie in the trilogy and if that’s the case (I don’t believe it for a second, even more so if this one is a hit), then they found a decent place to stop. The door is there for more movies, but should this be the end of the series then I think fans will find it satisfying. I also think special credit must be given to the costumes, especially the Egyptian costumes. I was also pleased to see little to no whitewashing (with the notable exception of Patrick Gallagher) in the main cast which is surprising and makes me hopeful for the future.
Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but I had a pretty good time. Fans of the series will be pleased with this final installment, while newcomers will also find enough to laugh about. I’m as surprised as everyone else; it is a lot better than I thought it would be.