Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

(PG) Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Rebel Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens

The success of this film series and its setting within New York’s Museum of Natural History, has relied upon what happens at night due to a magic tablet. But after all of the years of things coming to life in the museum, the tablet has begun to corrode — and the magical effects of these movies are beginning to fade.

For the third Night At The Museum, things go terribly wrong — this time — while a fundraising event is on. The much beloved characters of the museum turn on Larry Daly (Ben Stiller), as well as those attending the fundraiser. The urgency of fixing the problem escalates as the museum characters continue to turn back into their wax-like state. The solution takes Larry and company across the Atlantic to London.

Pharaoh Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) holds the answers to the fate of the tablet and the museums. Larry has to work through the London museum and the reaction of the artefacts and displays as they come to life for the first time in England. Through this international adventure, Larry also must come to terms with the eventual changes and conclusion to the magic of the tablet, this chapter of his life, and the series.

The Night at the Museum series has presented another successful run for the director of The Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen series, Shawn Levy. The original Night at the Museum story was rich with fresh ideas and humorous situations but, as the magic fades from the tablet, so does the fresh ideas for this series.

Even with new characters and the international setting of this film, the gags have become predictable and stale. Stiller has made a career out of his deadpan comedic style but, during this instalment, he comes off as bored with the role.

The new setting has the potential to present new twists to the sleepy tale. In the end, though, it only leaves a “been there, done that” feeling. Another new addition is Dan Stevens’ (Downton Abbey) who, initially, is energetic and fun as Sir Lancelot. Eventually, though, this character loses its lustre as the story continues. Unfortunately, Levy has turned to the boorish and tiresome Australian comedienne Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect), to try to infuse new life into the film. Playing Tilly the London night guard, her style has also become predictable and boring.

Sadly, when the best twist of the film is the inclusion of key cameos, you know that the series has run its course. Inevitably over the nine years of this film series, the human characters have matured and their life situations have changed. The appeal of this film to the younger audience was the relationship between Larry and his son, Nick. The underlying issues of a father trying to connect with his young son, humanised the story’s situations and connected people with the characters. In this version of the story, Nick (Skyler Gisondo) has grown up and is becoming an adult.  This dynamic causes a disconnect with the younger audience members, meaning the movie itself misses its target audience and lacks the relational magic of the first film.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb will appeal to some fans of the series, but like the storyline, shows that all things must come to an end.

During post-production of this film, Levy could not have predicted the tragic death of Robin Williams. Unlike the situation with watching Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Williams’ performance in Secret of the Tomb was bittersweet to experience. The farewell scenes were haunting and turned this endearing tale into a tragic reality.

As this movie marks Williams’ last on-screen role, witnessing it is an introspective experience that definitely was not the intention of the film. However, it could lead to  discussions about death, world religions and God. This light-hearted story has been dampened by the tragedies that surround the situations off the screen. The film leaves you with the hope that those behind the Night at the Museum franchise will see that it has run its course and it is time to let it go.

Night in the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is benign and harmless. While characters on-screen were looking to restore the magic to the tablet throughout the film, the magic has certainly gone out of this series.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film

  1. Is there life after death? (John 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57)
  2. What value is there to a good relationship between fathers and sons? (Psalms 127:1-5, John 5:19)
  3. What can sustain us through another Rebel Wilson performance? (Romans 12:12)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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