“Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb” is a curious beast. After the popularity and success of the previous instalments a third sequel is hardly a surprise. What is surprising, and perhaps a little disappointing, is that this third instalment is so thin on plot that it seems to exist merely just to let the cast have one more ‘jolly’ before the franchise expires. The added poignancy of this being one of Robin Williams’ last film roles lends the film a maudlin aspect which undercuts the rambunctious sense of fun which powered the first two instalments.
When the tablet of Ahkmenrah starts to corrode and lose its powers, it’s down to Larry (Ben Stiller) and his son Nicky (Skyler Gisondo – a distracting casting change from the previous two films) to get the tablet to the British Museum where Ahkmenrah’s father is on display, as he is the only one who understands the source of its power. Of course, some of the exhibits can’t pass up the chance to come along for the ride and in one night, the gang must deal with the newly awakened British exhibits and restore the tablet before the magic is lost forever.
More focussed on giving everyone and every character a ‘last hurrah’, the film devotes most of its energy to finding reasons to bring back nearly everyone from the first film, including a trip to see Bill Cobb, Mickey Rooney (who also passed away before the film’s release and who, along with Williams, the film is dedicated to) and Dick van Dyke (whose character Cecil is revealed to be connected to the tablet in a more important way than we were made to think) before jaunting off to jolly old England for a bit of a romp. In order to justify the romp, there’s a lot more exposition needed and unfortunately this role falls to Ricky Gervais’ preternaturally unlikeable museum curator although he’s given a run for his money in the teeth-clenchingly-unfunny-schtick stakes by a woefully miscast Rebel Wilson who is just flat out awful in this.
There are welcome additions in an attempt to freshen things up: Dan Stephens plays an agreeably dim Sir Lancelot and Ben Kingsley adds a dash of undeserved class to the proceedings as Ahkmenrah’s father while a surprise cameo (which I won’t spoil here) damn near steals the whole film out from under the cast in a frantic London theatre finale.
It’s passable, undemanding entertainment but feels, like the magical golden mcguffin, like its power has nearly run out, with the added akwardness of an unfortunate coda in which the exhibits, led by Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt, choose to return to their lifeless state and give up the magic of the tablet. Stiller clearly feels he is done with the franchise as Larry is shown to be unequivocally moving on and although the door is left open for the chilling prospect of a Gervais/ Wilson-led fourth movie, we can but hope the museum exhibits are left to rest in peace.