Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

Night at the Museum Franchise is Officially Ready for Mothballs

<i>Night at the Museum</i> Franchise is Officially Ready for Mothballs

DVD Release Date: March 10, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: December 19, 2014
Rating: PG (for mild action, some rude humor and brief language)
Genre: Comedy/Family
Run Time: 97 min.
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Rebel Wilson, Skyler Gisondo, Rami Malek, Patrick Gallagher, Ben Kingsley, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney

When a joke isn’t working, it’s probably best to simply cut bait. But in the third - and let's hope final - installment of this franchise, the writers, all seven of them, didn't get that memo. If something's not funny the first time in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, you can almost bank on it showing up several more times (cue the peeing capuchin monkey) before the credits roll.

Yes, 97 minutes has never felt quite so long, and that’s coming from someone who enjoyed the first two Night at the Museum films. For a franchise about breathing new life into history, Secret of the Tomb feels stale from the first frame, a real disappointment considering the level of acting talent—and sheer likeability—of the cast involved.

Truth is, everything about Secret of the Tomb feels phoned in, whether it's the Egyptian prologue you have a sneaking suspicion you've seen somewhere before (that would be Raiders of the Lost Ark, natch) or the lack of a substantial plotline that leaves so many characters, like the late Robin Williams’s scene-stealer Teddy Roosevelt, with not much to do.

Even Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), the face of the franchise, looks pretty bored for the duration—and he's playing not one, but two, characters. In addition to reprising Larry the Night Guard, he's also pulling double duty as a dim-witted caveman named Laa. In what’s essentially Derek Zoolander for the prehistoric era, one could only hope that Stiller was merely waiting for the perfect moment to unleash a "magnum" level of greatness. Trouble is, that moment never arrives. By adding nothing to the bottom line, Laa is yet another distraction that never quite works.

The same could be said for the uninspired script. After inviting the press and Who's Who of New York City to a preview of what happens at night in the Museum of Natural History, Larry's big show doesn't go as planned. Not even close. While the audience is convinced that everything's animatronic and fueled by special effects and merely malfunctioned, Larry suspects something far worse is happening behind the scenes. Before things can really get out of hand, the show is cut short, and Larry is left wondering if the magic of his exhibits coming to life has fizzled out for good.

As it turns out, there’s just a bit of green corrosion in the magical golden tablet that controls, well, everything concerning the livelihood of the exhibits. With the level of decay getting worse by the moment, Larry knows he must figure out a way to reverse the process so his beloved wax figures won’t continue to spiral out of control, and eventually, remain wax during the day and night.

This flimsy plot set-up eventually takes the cast, including Teddy, Jeb the Cowboy (Owen Wilson, The Big Year), Octavius (Steve Coogan, Philomena) and Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher, Sideways), overseas to London’s British Museum where there’s apparently a solution to the whole green rust crisis. It's here where the audience is introduced to a few new characters including Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens, who is perfectly cast as Sir Lancelot, Ben Kingsley (Exodus: Gods and Kings) as an Egyptian royal who figures prominently into the plot’s problem solving effort, and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) who wears her welcome out quickly as the requisite comic relief without the benefit of any good material.

Anyone who's seen the previous films can probably guess what happens next. The writers hit all the familiar marks with the CGI zaniness, beat by beat. Not even the intentionally heartwarming, let's-get-real moments between father and son find any real traction here. Like so many sequels before it, a third chapter of the Night at the Museum franchise is frankly more of an indulgence than a necessity—a shameless cash grab that offers nothing new for the audience, a total shame when the original idea actually felt somewhat inspired.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: There's quite a few red cups around at a teenage party that gets busted up.
  • Language/Profanity: He-- is used a handful of times, da-- shows up once. Some scatological humor, namely the monkey peeing on people, from time to time.
  • Sex/Nudity: None. There are a couple of moments where Jed seems concerned about Octavius wanting to hold hands. Or when he goes on and on about how handsome Sir Lancelot is.
  • Violence: On par with the previous Night at the Museum hi-jinks. The main “battle” is between Sir Lancelot and a giant Triceratops skeleton. Jed and Octavius also get stuck in a heater (and there’s a quip about how crisp they’d become because they’re so tiny) and run from burning lava in a Pompeii display. Several of the wax figurines that “come to life each night” freeze up for good.
  • Faith/Religious Themes: Discussion of the magic table’s origins and other religions and gods throughout history. When discovering that Larry has a Jewish background, Merenkahre talks about loving Jews because "we had 40,000 of them as slaves." When a couple of British kids make fun of Larry and his odd assortment of friends, Jed says "We're just as God made us."

Publication date: December 19, 2014