Title: Night At The Museum 3: Secret Of The Tomb
Director: Shawn Levy
Major Players: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Dan Stevens
Out Of Five: 2.5
Looks like movies are following that saying about things going in threes – well, at the moment anyway. We’ve already had the travesty that was Nativity 3, last week it was The Hobbit 3 and now it’s Night At The Museum – you’ve guessed it! – 3. And, in case you’re counting, or perhaps even looking forward to it, Taken 3 is on its way on 8 January ….. So much for my theory.
Despite The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies being an improvement on the previous two, it was only just above average as a film, which still goes to show that a third episode is rarely a good move. If the story’s been getting thin in part two – not unusual – then by part three whatever’s left is stretched to breaking point and everything, including the cast, starts to look more than a little weary. In this case, it’s called Night At The Museum:Secret Of The Tomb.
We’re back at the Museum of Natural History in New York, and Ben Stiller is also back as security guard Larry, still working for Doctor McPhee (Ricky Gervais) but now more accustomed to the fact that all the exhibits come to life at night. To launch an astronomy exhibition, he makes use of them as “special effects”, but the Egyptian artefact that makes them come alive in the first place starts to deteriorate with disastrous results. To find out why, Larry has to take friendly young Pharoah, Akhmenrah (Rami Malek), to London’s British Museum to get the answer from his parents, who were buried in the tomb. What he doesn’t realise is that the rest of the characters from the museum decide to hitch a ride as well.
Which means that all the familiar characters from the previous films get another outing. There’s Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, in one of his last roles), who always insists on the formality of calling Larry Laurence. Diminutive cowboy Jeb (Owen Wilson) and equally small Roman centurion Octavius (Steve Coogan), who travel in Genghis Kahn’s furry hat. And, of course, Dexter the monkey, complete with his unreliable bladder – which comes in useful when Jeb and Octavius are endangered by the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii. Also returning are old stagers Dick Van Dyke, as the elderly son of the man who discovered the tomb, and the late Micky Rooney in his last film, as his old buddy. And it has to be said that Van Dyke is still pretty nifty on his feet.
In an effort to breathe new life into the story, there’s a handful of new faces as well, although one of them does look rather familiar. And that’s because it’s Ben Stiller on double duty, playing one of a group of Neanderthals (rumours that it’s Tom Cruise underneath the make up and shaggy wig are more amusing than the character but, sadly, unfounded). He’s convinced Larry is his father and copies everything his does so, needless to say, communication between them is a touch difficult, resulting in a lot of repetitive “business”, including the wild man getting a buzz from various electrical devices. You feel you’ve been here before. More than once.
Another new character is a thoroughly British Sir Lancelot, played by Dan Stevens, rather enjoying dressing up in armour and injecting a much needed shot of energy into proceedings. Hugh Jackman also puts in a cameo as himself, playing King Arthur in a stage production of Camelot (I won’t begin to try explaining how we get there in the first place) and sending himself up as Wolverine. But, much as we all like him, even he can’t give the film the lift it so badly needs and I can’t help but think that the scene would have been funnier if the setting had been a production of Spamalot!
None of the cast are stretched and, in the main, do little more than go through the motions. Robin Williams gets the chance to indulge in his talent for gibberish and verbal dexterity when the “exhibits” go haywire, but it was the sort of thing he could do falling off a log. Or, in this case, his horse. Ricky Gervais plays – well, Ricky Gervais, and even does yet another take on his David Brent dance as the credits roll. And Steve Coogan’s acting talents are utterly squandered as the mini centurion.
The special effects are passable – the T-Rex skeleton in the New York museum and the Triceratops in London are easily the best, along with a multi-headed monster that Sir Lancelot gets stuck into with his sword. But generally, they’re not that impressive and the fact that the film is being shown in IMAX only makes it more obvious.
Fans of the parts one and two could easily feel let down by this one. There’s nothing especially new, except for a couple of characters and a change of location. That aside, it’s just more of the same. It’s also remarkably flat, lacking in energy or originality. And while the children at the screening I attended were laughing, I suspect it wasn’t as much as the makers would have liked or expected.
The trailer sums it up. “The magic is running out.” It’s not wrong.
Night At The Museum 3:Secret Of The Tomb is released around the UK on Friday, 19 December.