I think we all know that Night at the Museum movies are hardly high art. In fact, they’re about one step up from those straight to video movies the Olson twins made in the 90s. But the magic they do have is that they’re entertaining. So does Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb hold up to the original?
This time around, Larry (Ben Stiller) learns that the magic Tablet of Akhmenrah, the Egyptian artifact that brings the Museum of Natural History’s various exhibits to life, is starting to lose its powers. That means that Larry will soon have to say goodbye to friends like Teddy Roosevelt (the late Robin Williams), Egyptian Pharaoh Akhmenrah (Rami Malek), miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and his Roman general friend Octavius (Steve Coogan). So off Larry goes to a British museum, so he can find a replacement magic tablet.
So yeah, the entire plot was conceived with the purpose of sending the museum guard to yet another museum, so he could continue meeting various historical figures. The previous movies did well with this formula, so I guess there seems to be no reason to stop now.
Except, this results in a strange lack of energy, as if everyone is just sick of making these movies. Of course, I guess that’s what you get when you base an entire franchise of movies on a 32 page children’s book. You know what this movie is? It’s that movie you play over and over for your kids so you can get a break from them. It’s more background noise than anything else. It’s a PG non-interactive babysitter.
And an excuse to show off an array of CGI effects. Those are still as decent as the original. But that’s about all it has going for it. The first movie was supported by a cast of heavyweight comics. In this third installment, all the priors are tired and Robin Williams carries it all with his frantic energy.
Much like the tablet itself, this franchise has lost its magic. A phone in script and exhausted characters go on a short trip. In order to pad the script, two of the characters get stuck in a heating shaft and everyone has to go look for them for 45 minutes.
One bright shining spot in this is Rebel Wilson, who plays the British equivalent of Stiller’s character. As a guard at her own museum, she steals every single scene she’s in, making Stiller fall even more flat.
He clearly phoned in his effort and I think I know why. Rumor is, that when he was trying to get The Secret Life of Walter Mitty made, he actually had to sign on to do a third installment of this series. I guess when you shove someone back into a role, and hand him a tired script, you can’t really blame him for not putting forth much of an effort.
Hopefully, the studio will get the message and stop making these movies. But I highly doubt it. The movie has already raked in $17 million and is holding steady at number 2 at the box office. Despite the fact that it’s not worth the watch, it apparently was worth the making.
WE GAVE IT: 2.5 Stars