‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ movie review: Robin Williams’ final film

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Ben Stiller’s intrepid night watchman Larry Daley visits the British Museum in London in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a bright and busy sequel that represents a step up from the previous installment but doesn’t quite capture the magic of the 2006 original. 

None of these films represent high art, mind you, but it’s nice to see mainstream kids’ movies that make some attempt at offering educational value. Before the trip to London, the first film featured New York’s American Museum of Natural History, and the second relocated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

While the exhibits featured in the films may have a somewhat questionable relationship to their real-life counterparts – no one will confuse these movies for Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery – an attempt has been made to re-create the actual exhibits and locations from these museums. 

The result is a smorgasbord of real-life historical artifacts, and as cartoonish as they may be represented here, there’s a lot more educational value in Night at the Museum than your average kids’ flick. 

Returning from previous entries are Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams, in his final screen role), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and miniature Roman Octavius (Steve Coogan), along with other “living” exhibits including a capuchin monkey and a CGI Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton nicknamed “Rexy”. 

When these exhibits start going haywire at the outset of the film, Stiller’s character traces the malfunction back to the magical tablet that gives the exhibits their “life” every night. After the trio of old guards from the first movie – played by Dick van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs – provide some brief exposition, Larry and co. head off to London to get some help from Ahkmenrah’s father, Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley).

There, the tablet brings to life a myriad of new exhibits, including marble sculptures, a ceramic elephant, a Triceratops skeleton, and Sir Lancelot, played by Dan Stevens, who offers up his assistance. There’s also a security guard played by Rebel Wilson, during her usual schtick, and Stiller has some fun in a dual role as a Neanderthal who stows away for the trip to London. 

The plot wraps itself up at around the 75-minute mark – and provides a fitting, if surprisingly melancholy, resolution for the series (this third entry is purported to be the final one) – but the film continues for 15 minutes of unadulterated schmaltz as Stiller’s character works out a subplot concerning his college-age son and we say a final goodbye to these characters. 

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb marks the final screen appearances for both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams; the film is dedicated to both of them, with director Shawn Levy choosing an especially relevant closing note for Williams: “Magic never ends.”

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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