In another installment no one saw coming or particularly demanded, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” seems to be the final movie in the franchise. The premise that’s given in this movie is very different from the previous films and shows promise of being fresh, original content but what is given to us is the same slapstick, history-based humor and even a new location like the sequel. “Night at the Museum” is clumsy and very lacking in new ideas, choosing to rely on the past successes of the series rather than coming up with anything new, which is fitting for a movie relying on the past for its source of humor.
The movie focuses on the tablet of Ahkmenrah, the source of what causes everything to come to life, and its seemingly diminishing power. What gives the promise of a new take on the franchise is the movie opening on a flashback. It has a very Indiana Jones-feel as it reveals the discovery of Ahkmenrah’s tomb and what seems to be a curse that’s been unleashed. Cut to present day, when everyone in the museum begins to lose control of their movements and start to revert to wax. The only solution is for Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and friends to journey to London to find Ahkmenrah’s parents.
And that’s pretty much it. There are a couple of subplots featuring Larry having to deal with his son growing up and Sir Lancelot, but most of the movie is the same back-and-forth humor that was entertaining in the first movie and okay in the second, but at this point is bland in its own cliched way. At one point, it could be forgotten that this is even a comedy, as the laughs are sparse throughout the movie. We’ve seen it before (even twice) and the comedy feels dry.
Another problem is that the movie tries to both include a lot of a new setting and clumsily spreads out screen time among these new and secondary characters. The problem is the movie is very self-aware that this is the last installment and tries to mix in the elements of what worked in the first movie (characters) and the second (action in a new location) just to remind people why the movie was so likeable in the first place. When the film chooses to focus on London, it pushes the supporting characters to the side, and when it does put focus on them it feels rushed, just serving as a quick refresher of what makes them likable as characters. But for most of the movie, they are just there as background, running from danger and doing almost nothing to move the plot forward, as little of it as there is.
It is touching at the end of the movie that there’s a nice sendoff to both Mickey Rooney, who has a brief cameo, and Robin Williams. Knowing that this is Williams’ final role does make watching the few scenes he actually has dialogue in a little bittersweet. Although unplanned, the written final scene with him also feels like a proper send-off.
Although it has its quiet, touching moments, that is not enough to carry the movie, particularly one that is supposed to be a comedy adventure. Overall, the film attempts to tackle too much material and it creates an unfocused, cluttered mess. It tries to be too many things and in the end just manages to be “okay.”
Rating: 2 stars