Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)

Night at the MuseumWhen the enchanted exhibitions at New York City’s Museum of Natural History begin to act even stranger than usual, forgetting themselves and attacking the guests at a special evening event, night guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) delves into the history of the magical tablet responsible in search of answers. He learns that upon its discovery in 1938 it was transported to New York along with the remains of Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), while the rest of the pharaoh’s tomb was taken to the British Museum. Together with Ankmenrah, Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Sacagawea (Mizuo Peck), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan), a Neanderthal (Stiller again), a Capuchin monkey and Larry’s son Nick (Skyler Gisondo), he travels to London to meet the pharaoh’s parents. When the tablet is in range, Lancelot (Dan Stevens) and Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) awaken, much to the confusion of the museum’s own security guard, Tilly (Rebel Wilson).

Well, that explains it: the reason that Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was so utterly witless was that the tablet of Ankmenrah was malfunctioning all along. Who knew? Unfortunately for viewers of Secret of the Tomb, Shawn Levy’s third and hopefully final assault on the credibility of an esteemed scientific institution, the issue remains unresolved for most of the film, meaning that things have to get worst before they can get better. As such, prepare yourself for more father-son issues as Larry attempts to talk a re-cast Nick out of a DJ-ing career in Ibiza; more monkey business with Dexter including but not limited to an extended and inexplicable make-out scene; and more textureless effects-work as a Triceratops, a nine-headed snake and Pompeii join the bounty of disappointing would-be attractions from the other films.

Compounding things further is the distinct lack of anything that could even loosely be considered comedic. Since 2009, of course, jokes have gone out of fashion in Hollywood, so audiences must instead contend with the sort of improvised gibberish that should have been left to die on stage where it belongs. The usually pretty funny but always very R-rated Rebel Wilson has been drafted in to fulfill this requirement, but you soon get the impression that all of her best work has been sacrificed to satisfy the censors. Instead we get a reference to her pony-tail looking like a yellow poo and various other observations that shouldn’t have made the outtakes. At least Wilson is allowed to speak, however, which is more than can be said for poor Mizuo Peck. Despite appearing as Sacagawea in all three films, Peck has been given almost nothing of note to do. This time she gets less lines than even Alice Eve, who plays herself in a stage production of Camelot, alongside Hugh Jackman in one of the most excruciating attempts at meta-humour in recent memory.

The supporting cast in general is hopelessly underserved, with Wilson (Owen, this time), Coogan and even Williams often sidelined in favour of Stiller (who here plays two characters instead of one). Larry and his Neanderthal doppelganger get one half-decent scene together, locked in the museum’s staff room for reasons that already escape me, but otherwise Laa’s inclusion is never fully justified; director Shawn Levy already has Attila the Hun should he require someone to grunt or groan. The most successful new addition is arguably Lancelot, though even Stevens — so good in The Guest — is pretty painful to watch. He’s clearly already struggling with the slapstick humour, so every time Lancelot’s given something even marginally more sophisticated to do he fails miserably — he’s not even funny with a half-melted nose. Worryingly, Ricky Gervais gives probably the best performance in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, comedic or otherwise, and gets the only audible laugh when called upon to vouch for Stiller’s security guard. Having been fired earlier in the film, he does so while feeding pigeons in Central Park and pretending to shout at children supposedly on a school trip. There’s also a nice moment with the lion statues from Trafalgar Square, but it’s over before it’s even begun.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb isn’t hateful — the fact that it is one of Williams’ last films gifts it with a certain poignancy, while Levy’s emphatic attempts to reference previous movies in the series despite not having any fans to service are almost endearing — but it is awful. There’s not a trace of character, wit or drama to be found. For better stories, why not visit an actual museum?

1.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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