- Directed by Shawn Levy
- December 11, 2014 (Ziegfeld Theatre) / December 19, 2014 (US)
- Based on characters by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant
When the tablet of Ahkmenrah begins to fail, Larry must travel to the British Museum to figure out why.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the final film in the live action Night at the Museum trilogy. This is as much a handoff film as it is a way to ensure that there are no more Night at the Museum films starring Ben Stiller. Seriously. By the end of the story things are set up in such a way that there is no way Larry could really come back for another movie logically or be a desirable hero.
The plot revolves around the failing of the tablet. Why? That’s what Larry is tasked to figure out in order to prevent all the exhibits from essentially dying. We get the story behind the story of how the tablet works and how it was found. And to do that we get cameos by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs as Cecil, Gus, and Reginald respectively. It turns out young Cecil (Percy Hynes White) was there when the tablet was found as his father was an archeologist. Thus he took a job at the museum because of that? I am not sure.
While it provides an easy way for Larry to get some quick information rather than stretch things out, it seems like a real change for the character of Cecil. By stealing the tablet in the first one (and presumably selling it) Cecil was dooming all the exhibits to death anyway so why is he now upset and generally concerned about the end of the magic for them? Larry for some unknown reason got them out of jail (which implies some serious connections) even though they were going to frame him for the theft but they are all cool with each other now. It makes no sense!
The magic tablet was created by Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) father Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) as a way to keep his family together forever. Merenkahre apparently has a strong belief in Egyptian mysticism and the afterlife so why was he afraid of death? Did he think his family would not be found worthy to pass into eternity? I don’t know. In an unusual move for these films the mother (woman) is completely unimportant to the narrative and shows up just to be supportive of the men in her (after)life. She just smiles really and offers love and comfort.
I am not one to scream ‘misogyny’ or ‘sexism’ but this film series really did do a terrible job with women. They are rarely present and when they are they tend to be barely two dimensional and serve largely to support and cheer on the men. They are the token girlfriend. I try to view films in the era in which they were made since for example what was okay in the 50s might not be cool today. These are not that old and I have difficulty giving them a pass here.
I said this is a handoff film because a new security guard character named Tilly (Rebel Wilson) is introduced and she is the night security guard at the British Museum. Larry meets her when he takes Ahkmenrah (along with the tablet and a few museum exhibits) there to ask Ahkmenrah’s parents what is going on. Long story short it turns out the tablet needs to be exposed to moonlight on the regular otherwise the magic fails. Why dad could not divulge this a few thousand years ago makes no sense. It was not an Earth shattering revelation but rather a significant piece of information on upkeep. And Ahkmenrah is the good and trustworthy son so why was it kept from him. Heck, it looked like in the last one Ahkmenrah’s brother Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) had a good chunk of information that Ahkmenrah did not have. It makes no sense!
Taking a step back, in the first film Ahkmenrah states he was previously in the Egyptology Department of Cambridge University (where he presumably learned English) yet here it sounds like in this one he was sent immediately to the US with his parents going to the British Museum and the remainder staying in Egypt. Maybe there is a line or two that would fix this sitting on the cutting room floor or more likely somebody did not pay attention.
Back to Tilly. Tilly is a Rebel Wilson stock character. Nothing special and nothing beyond a punchline. If you have seen one Rebel Wilson character then you know exactly what you get here.
What bothers me is that the whole point of the story was to keep the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History alive and safe but by the end of the film the characters that make it to England with Larry decide on behalf of every exhibit back in the natural history museum that the tablet stays in England as should Ahkmenrah and his family. That’s a huge decision to make and this tiny group did it for a whole great number of people. Plus that decision makes the effort not only of this film but of the other movies in the series rather pointless. All that trouble and they didn’t actually do what they set out to do.
The main though unintentional villain of Secret of the Tomb (besides time) is Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) who having been just revived is rather delusional believing himself to be the real Sir Lancelot and it appears in this movie to be the normal side effect of anyone brought to life for the first time. How many exhibits did they lose in the last film at the Smithsonian? And what about everything they bring to life while moving through the streets of London? Sunrise turns them to dust if they are outside.
I guess to smooth the edges and make everything a little less pointless there is a finale after the finale where a traveling exhibit from the British Museum shows up in the Natural History Museum and all the things come back to life for I guess however long the tablet remains. They may not be real things but they are granted a life by the tablet and this temp life seems like a bit of a jerk move.
My main issue with Secret of the Tomb is that after all the struggles to preserve the exhibits and keep them alive Larry and the exhibits give it all up. It makes not only the struggles of this film but its predecessors as well just pointless. Larry risked his life and gave up his fortune and dream business for nothing. And after supposedly finding his place at the museum he gave that up too! I was right to think the character would give it all up when the next new thing came along. Check out my first review here.
Issues aside this is a fun movie. It’s an enjoyable romp that is a good watch. The jokes are solid and it’s a fun and not too deep story. While the previous two films were about Larry either finding a job that his son would like and respect him for or finding your place, this one was about moving on and wasting all that effort you put in to keep your friends safe. If Larry and the tablet had stayed at the museum and maybe got the pharaonic parents there too I might feel differently. This is well polished family friendly but it lacks logic and focuses on ending the series rather than ending without making the characters struggles pointless.
Don’t think about Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb too deeply. It’s just meant to be fun and silly. When you start peaking below the surface you realize much of this is an excuse for cool and fun stuff and not a carefully thought through story. Just sit back and enjoy and watch. If you can turn your brain off a little bit you will enjoy.