On the Silver Screen – Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb marks the third (and possibly final) installment in this series and serves as one of the final performances for the late legend that is Robin Williams. Mickey Rooney -a relation of mine, true story- makes his final appearance here too.
It’s really amazing that they’ve managed to make this into a trilogy as the concept wasn’t something that necessarily lent itself to an enduring franchise. I’ll quickly sum up my views on the other 2 based on my limited memory of having seen them. The first one was really good and the second was not quite as good but a fun ride nonetheless so how does the latest one stack up?
In short, it’s not bad. Not great but not bad either. There’s a definite sense of franchise fatigue going on here and it seems that the concept has been stretched further than it probably should have been. In general I feel that this installment leans too heavily on the gags that people enjoyed in the first two movies. This is fine if there’s mileage in these jokes but in this case they get less funny with repetition.
A film like this will rise or fall based on how you deal with the style of humour. For me it mostly falls flat with a couple of moments managing to impress here and there. In particular a surprise cameo that I won’t spoil here provides a genuinely hilarious moment.
If Ben Stiller isn’t someone who does it for you as an actor then your mind won’t be changed here. He’s in full Ben Stiller mode here and actually comes across as a little bland to me. There were moments that were supposed to be emotionally resonate but he delivers his dialogue with the enthusiasm of a man reading an instruction manual on how to use safety goggles. His secondary turn as the waxwork caveman Laaa fails to impress as well.
Much of the rest of the cast fare significantly better with returning favourites like Robin Williams turning in impressive performances. Given that this is one of Williams’ last roles there are plenty of touching moments here inclusive of a scene where his character says goodbye that almost breaks the 4th wall.
Another highlight is Dan Stevens’ Lancelot who manages to be charming in an over the top sort of way. His antics provide some genuine laughs and he’s one of the few characters who has a genuine character arc in the narrative beyond Stiller himself.
Structurally the story felt a little muddled. The film seemed to be trying to tell 3 unconnected stories at the same time. The strongest of these was definitely the failing power of the tablet and the possibility of the exhibits remaining motionless for eternity but Lancelot’s quest for Camelot and his Buzz Lightyear arc works pretty well too. The weak link here is Stiller’s Larry trying to find some common ground with his son Nick (Skyler Gisondo). Everything about this subplot is entirely predictable and just boring to watch.
Some of the attempts at comedy were just plain irritating. Rebel Wilson’s British security guard Tilly was annoying in every scene she was in. Nothing about this character was in any way funny to me and her dialogue scenes felt endless. Similarly any scene involving Ricky Gervais made me wish for a fast forward button.
Visually the film was fairly impressive but not without some ropey CGI. If you look past that and view the scenes for what they are then they are fairly impressive. A battle with a serpent creature provides a particular highlight. There are some other impressive sequences focusing on the different exhibits found in the British Museum.
The main plot of the film seems to suggest something of a finality to the series and manages to provide a reasonably satisfying coda that manages to be slightly moving in places. It’s bizarre that this good work is almost immediately undermined by some superfluous scenes that suggest a possible continuation for the series. It’s a shame as the ending was good enough as it was without instantly reversing it.
Considering that this is the 3rd installment of a film series that started to get stale in the 2nd outing it doesn’t come off as bad as it could have.
Some impressive set pieces and a likeable turn by Dan Stevens helps to save this film from being truly awful. Having 2 out of the 3 main plots be fairly watchable also helps elevate the material to a reasonable level.
For me the humour doesn’t really land for the most part. Some of the gags work. Dan Stevens is actually pretty funny and mainstays like Robin Williams can always be counted on for a laugh. Ben Stiller fails to impress on a dramatic and comedic level too.
Much of the attempts at humour are actually pretty painful such as Rebel Wilson’s British security guard and any scene involving Ricky Gervais. Scenes involving them made me wish there was a fast forward button in the cinema screen.
Despite a sense of franchise fatigue the film manages to provide a fairly satisfying coda to the series that is unfortunately immediately undermined. It’s a pity given how moving a scene involving Robin Williams saying goodbye managed to be. All in all not terrible but not great by any stretch of the definition.