In a world where unwanted and unwarranted sequels are being spewed out like never before, how refreshing it is to get a “threequel” that actually finds a way of being the best of its franchise. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the long expected and highly anticipated (see what I mean?) third entry into the infamous (again, see?) set of films based on Milian Trenc’s 1993 children’s book of the same name. In said series, Larry (Ben Stiller) is in the standard clichéd situation: he’s divorced, wants to be there for his son, and finds it hard when his ex-wife considers him a poor example. But he’s the world’s coolest dad when he discovers that the artifacts of the museum come to life at night thanks to a magical tablet. In Secret of the Tomb, we get the untold story of the history of the tablet that started it all. Did we want it? No. Did we need it? No. But we have it, and in a shocking bit of news, it’s quite good.
I’ve always admired Ben Stiller in the strangest of ways, meaning that I’m not entirely sure why I like him so much. Maybe it’s because he has been in some truly funny comedies. Maybe it’s his high ambitions as a filmmaker (see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I enjoyed very much). Or maybe it’s just because we share the same first name. I don’t know, but I know that I like him, and I want to see him in more good movies. In this movie, he is a tad bit restrained, I will admit, but I still found him somewhat entertaining just because of the Stiller-factor. Alongside him again is the late Robin Williams, not having a lot of screen time but just enough to bring up happy memories and an ending scene that is sure to move any true lover of his craft to tears. Also, Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan are funny enough as the two major comics of the film, the small replicas of out-west cowboys. Ricky Gervais brings the sly British humor one could expect from him and Ben Kingsley is hilarious as an Egyptian Pharaoh. Also, I can’t not mention Dan Stevens, who has the time of his life in the role of Sir Lancelot who has the clichéd but still funny (and sometimes clever) fish-out-of-water element going on.
I’ve seen three movies in the past two weeks that begin in the sandy plains of Egypt. Two of them have Ben Kingsley (oddly and funnily enough), but only one of them is good. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is better than any threequel of sure-to-be-forgotten franchise has any right to be. It’s far from great, but the script is clever, the humor hits more often than not, and it’s filled with enough entertaining performances to distract the viewer enough from the clichéd family issues and the silliness of the plot. It’s a good dose of family friendly fun.
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor, and brief language
Starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley
Directed by Shawn Levy