Movies: Night at the Museum: The Secret of the Tomb

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Written By: David Guion & Michael Handelman
20th Century Fox, 2014
PG; 97 minutes
3.75 stars (out of 5)


Let's be clear going in: I saw the first Night at the Museum but not the second. I doubt it makes much difference either way, but I believe in full disclosure.

This installment finds an excuse to send Stiller and Co. to the British Museum in search of Ahkmenrah's parents. You see, the magical tablet that brings all the museum exhibits to life each night is corroding. But Ahkmenrah tells Larry his father knows how to fix it. Thing is, Akhmenrah's parents are in the British Museum.

Obstacle? Not really. In fact, fun as this film is, there aren't enough challenges involved. Larry asks Dr. McPhee to arrange a transfer of Ahkmenrah and his tablet to the British Museum for "conservation work." Done. That easy.

And there's not much of a villain, either. Dan Stevens joins the cast as a waxwork Lancelot that comes to life when the British Museum is exposed to the tablet's power. When Lancelot realizes the tablet is a step up from the Holy Grail he'd been seeking, he steals it and sets off in search of Camelot and his lovely Guinevere.

As for the tablet's power drain, turns out all it needs is a little moonlight. Not much of an obstacle at all.

It's mostly a shame that what might have been a strong story was made so weak. All that aside, however, the film itself is cute and entertaining, pretty much exactly what one would expect. My five-year-old laughed the entire time. (And this is probably still way better than whatever latest terrible thing they've done to The Hobbit.)

These films have also begun to merit cameos, it seems, since we get a look at Hugh Jackman as King Arthur in a production of Camelot. Lancelot storms the stage, only to be confused when he's told Camelot isn't real. And Ben Kingsley does all of a day's work (if that much) as Ahkmenrah's father the pharaoh Merenkahre.

Fathers and sons are the running theme of the movie. The film starts with a flashback in which a young Cecil aids his father on an exhibition in Egypt, where they find Ahkmenrah's family tomb. Later, Larry discovers they've added a new caveman to the exhibit, and it's been made to look exactly like him. This caveman takes to calling Larry "Da-da" and imitating him. Meanwhile, Larry's actual son Nick is trying to convince his dad to let him take a gap year between high school and college. And then there's Ahkmenrah's reunion with his parents as well. All in all, a pretty thick layer of father-son dynamic.

One can't help but be aware of Robin Williams in this film, too. Some of his dialogue hits quite hard in the wake of his suicide. "Let us go," he tells Larry when it's decided the British Museum should keep the tablet, meaning the exhibits in New York will remain still. Ah, Mr. Williams, you will live forever, though, won't you? In our hearts and on film.

Many minor things had me thinking the Cinema Sins "Everything Wrong With" entry for this one will be quite good, but it's a kids' movie, so one can't really be all that strict about it. (But, yes, okay—in all that running around the tablet's toggles didn't get flipped? Really? Also, Dexter Ex Machina.)

We learn at the end of the film that Larry has left his work at the museum and gone on to become a teacher. History, I'm guessing. And I'm also guessing the next big museum the franchise will hit will be . . . the Louvre?

P.S. Can we please find something other than "London Calling" when people go to London?

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