Film review: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB, from Built For Speed

The first two Night At The Museum films were noisy, juvenile but generally fun attempts at Spielberg-style special effects adventure comedies.  There was little to distinguish the first instalment from the second and with number three, subtitled Secret of the Tomb, director Shawn Levey, who has helmed every film in the franchise, has stuck to the formula.

Ben Stiller returns as museum night shift guard Larry Daley who each night parties with all the museum exhibits including mannequins of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), monkeys and dinosaur skeletons, when they magically come to life.  The source of this phenomenon is a mysterious ancient Egyptian tablet the provenance of which is revealed in an Indiana Jones-style prologue set in the 1930’s. In this sequence a very stereotyped Egyptian man warns that removing the tablet from the burial chamber will have dangerous consequences. When, in the present day, this ominous prophecy begins to manifest itself, Larry and his band of magically animated buddies find themselves in a frantic race to recover the tablet which takes them from New York to  London’s Museum of Natural History.

Like the previous films, number three offers a few amusing and inventive sequences such as when Stiller falls into an Escher painting and has to combat its topsy-turvy logic and when an animated Sir Lancelot mannequin invades a stage production of Camelot featuring Hugh Hackman who has a great time sending himself up.  Unfortunately, like its predecessors this film has too many schmaltzy moments and too many annoying juvenile gags in which historical figures start boogying and using contemporary references. Also, a subplot about Larry’s teenage son trying to find his way in life goes nowhere.

A lot of the film relies on cgi effects not all of which are great.  Some of the creatures cavorting about the Museum look about as convincing as Jar Jar Binks although a technicolour Indonesian exhibition featuring dancing statues looks terrific.

While this might be a lucrative franchise for Stiller, it hardly represents a credible leap forward for him as an actor; submerged in so many special effects, Stiller is barely able to register a discernible performance.  The other cast members don’t fare much better.  Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan are wasted in unfunny and annoying roles as a tiny cowboy and roman centurion respectively. As Indian woman Sacajawea, Mizuo Peck has virtually nothing to do.  Similarly, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney have fleeting performances. Ben Kingsley, who appears briefly as a re-animated Pharaoh looks embarrassed to be there. Rebel Wilson who plays a weird socially inappropriate British museum security guard does, however, score a few laughs.

Sadly, this film was Robin Williams’ last and the tragic circumstances of death make it difficult to watch his comical take on Teddy Roosevelt.  The one actor who may benefit from their appearance in this film is Dan Stevens who steals the movie as the vain and arrogant Lancelot ; his rampages through the museum and London’s streets are the most exciting and funny parts of the film.

This is passable holiday fun but the franchise must surely have breathed its last.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Action/ comedy/ fantasy.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Shawn Levey.

Release date: 25th Dec 2014

Running time: 98 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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