Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb' review

2006's Night at the Museum was a massive breakout hit, grossing nearly $574 million worldwide and charming kids all over the world. Three years later, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was a slight disappointment, making only $413 million on a much bigger budget ($150 million). After that lag at the box office, I was pretty sure that the franchise was done. Nevertheless, Fox found a way to churn out another Museum flick, and unsurprisingly, it hasn't torn it up at the box office so far. The charm of this series has worn off and the fans just aren't there. However, for the remaining fans, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is quite a treat. It's a bittersweet conclusion to the franchise and it manages to work because its heart is in the right place. Secret of the Tomb might not be the best film of the year, or even a truly good film in general, but it leaves this fun franchise on a high note.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb continues the misadventures of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and the rest of the museum gang. Before the debut of a new, show-stopping exhibit at the museum, Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) tells Larry that the magical tablet is corroding. During the new show, the museum exhibits begin to malfunction: Teddy (the late Robin Williams) points a gun at a guest, Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) babbles nonsensical garbage and the cavemen go nuts. Ahkmenrah reveals that the only way to save the museum and the tablet is to head to Britain and meet his parents who have a strong knowledge of the tablet. After that, Larry heads off to the British Museum with his troubled son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) to save the museum and everything that lives in it.

I'm not going to try and argue that Secret of the Tomb is a masterpiece of cinema. It's a juvenile kids film with jokes that occasionally go on for way too long and humor that falls flat. But somehow, this movie got to me. I teared up at the end of this movie. I felt really, really sad when this film ended. Why? It's a combination of many things. Firstly, this is one of Robin Williams' final films and his final scene is hauntingly sad. I didn't find as much meaning in it as some did, but his final screen appearance made me cry. It's the final time we'll see Robin Williams on screen, and that was crushing to me. As I've noted before, I didn't grow up during the golden age of Robin Williams, but the Night at the Museum series was always a bright spot in his career for me.

But that couldn't have been the only reason the ending of this film got to me, right? I was tearing up before Williams even showed up for his final scene. I think the fact that this is the final film in the Night at the Museum series got to me. I grew up with these films and to say goodbye to this franchise was hard. I wouldn't have thought that before watching this film, but it ended up being hard to watch. Huge shout-out to Shawn Levy and the creative team behind this series for creating a poignant and powerful ending to this movie.

So before this movie reaches its terrific conclusion, is it any good? Truth is, it's merely decent. Some of the jokes land. Some don't. The acting is pretty solid, but the plot is flimsy and not all that engaging. Ben Stiller and Skyler Gisondo have good chemistry together, but Dan Stevens is flat-out spectacular as Lancelot. His character is funny on the surface, yet actually pretty interesting when you get into the film. Stevens is truly an actor on the rise and I look forward to seeing what he does next (I'm also looking forward to finally seeing The Guest when it comes out on Blu-Ray).

The plot of this film is serviceable. It's not overly involving, but it's efficient enough. I was kind of weary about the filmmakers doing another plot focused on the all-powerful tablet, yet it manages to work. I liked some of the twists that the movie took and it keeps the film fresh. It could have been completely predictable, but it ends up taking some turns that you wouldn't expect at all. For example, I knew that Dick van Dyke, Bill Cobbs and the late Mickey Rooney would be reprising their roles from the original in this film. However, I didn't know how they would show up and the filmmakers ended up reintroducing them in a very cool and unexpected manner. Little things like that manage to keep the film from floating towards mediocrity.

The actors also do a very good job throughout. Robin Williams is consistently funny in one of his final roles, and he brings his signature warmth and charm to the character of Teddy once again. Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan have some true-blue moments of hilarity as Jedediah and Octavius, the two miniature figures. Those two actors have terrific chemistry together and I loved their scenes. I'm still not a fan of Rebel Wilson, but she's not too bad in this film. Ricky Gervais and Ben Kingsley also make appearances and do pretty good. Kingsley has a hilarious moment in this film, and the irony of him playing a Jewish slave in Exodus and then an Egyptian pharaoh in Secret of the Tomb is great.

But in the end, when it comes down to it, you're gonna want to see this film because of the ending, especially if you were a fan of the franchise before this. The filmmakers close out this series with a poignancy that nobody would expect from a Night at the Museum movie. It wasn't quite on the level of Toy Story 3, but it was close. Throughout this series, the filmmakers took several missteps. The second film was pretty forgettable and this film has some issues as well. But nobody will ever be able to deny that they ended on a perfect note. Levy and company closed out one of my favorite childhood franchises with grace, heart and charm. A fun mix of old-school throwbacks to the first film and fun new additions, I couldn't be happier with the way that this one turned out.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.1/10)

Image Credits: Fox Movies, Fat Movie Guy, Fandango 

1 comment:

  1. I am surprised this franchise is still alive. Monkeys peeing on miniature Romans, stereotypical British stereotypes (yes, and redundant plot redundancies in plot (see what I did there?)), and great actors like Robin Williams cashing it in...and this is part 3! Wow. And people say The Hobbit is bad and needless.