In my review of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), I discussed how I had no intention of seeing it. Basically, I saw it on Disney+, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “meh,” whatever. And aside from my annoyance with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), it is a thoroughly “whatever” movie. Perhaps there is some jadedness on my part, but then again, I see a lot of films. As such, I was even less inclined to see Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), the subject of today’s review. It is a part of a trilogy, though, so I might as well finish it off. Besides, it has the late Robin Williams in it, reprising his role as the wax statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It has another giant of Hollywood’s even more distant yester year who has since passed, Mickey Rooney, who played one of the nighttime security guards from the first film in the series. He is in it for all of thirty seconds, and has one line, which does not do justice to a career that lasted nearly ninety years. Not bad for a former teenage heartthrob.
I did not expect Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb to begin in Egypt in 1938, but that is the setting. It is here that archaeologists discover the famous magical tablet that has been bringing museum exhibits to life since the first movie. When the team finds it, along with a few sarcophagi, locals warn them not to take them out because it will mean the end. We then shift to modern times and to the American Museum of Natural History where Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is still working as the nighttime security guard, though with the new title of head of night activities. The institution is hosting the opening of a new planetarium, and Larry is enlisting the help of all the exhibits to showcase it for the gathered donors, and his boss and head curator Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais). Unfortunately, the tablet appears to be suffering corrosion, and this makes all the animated inanimate objects malfunction. This happens at an inopportune time, and sets them all acting aggressively, which triggers a panic. The next day, Larry goes to visit Dr. McPhee to explain what has happened. Given that Dr. McPhee has been fired, he is not much interested in whatever it is that Larry has to say, including when the security guard finally lets the curator in on the secret of the tablet. What Larry is able to do is convince Dr. McPhee to authorize Larry to take the magical object, along with Ankmenrah (Rami Malek) to the British Museum in London. Larry seeks to do this because he learned from the former guard, Cecil Fredericks (Dick Van Dyke), about the ominous warning about the tablet. Cecil had been the boy in 1938 who stumbled into the chamber where it was originally found. Further, Ankhmenrah averred that his father, Merenkahre (Sir Ben Kingsley), is the only who knows anything about the tablet’s function. Hence, to London they go, accompanied by Larry’s increasingly prone to partying teenage son Nick (Skyler Gisondo). After what I suppose is meant to be a humorous run-in with his British Museum equivalent, Tilly (Rebel Wilson), Larry and Nick are able to gain entrance to the museum. At the appropriate time, the exhibits come to life, and Larry discovers that it is not solely the ancient Egyptian prince that has come along for the trip across the pond. They include all the familiar faces from previous movies, including Teddy Roosevelt, and their presence serves little purpose other than to pad out the length of the movie. The monkey even comes along. At any rate, Larry’s main goal is to get to the Egyptian room before the corrosion on the tablet causes any further trouble for his friends. They are inside a museum where this has never happened, and the exhibits have the expected shenanigans coming to terms with their existence. The only one of real importance here is the figure of Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens), who comes to their assistance as they are being chased by a Triceratops skeleton. Sir Lancelot is having a tough time dealing with his new reality, and believes that he is an actual knight of legendary King Arthur’s round table. Further, he does not believe that Larry is handling the quest properly. Before Larry can complete Merenkahre’s directive to expose the tablet to moonlight, which will repair it, Sir Lancelot steals it. He convinces himself that it is some kind of relic to present to King Arthur, and thereby gain favor with his ruler. Riding out into the London night, he finds a production of Camelot with Hugh Jackman (as himself) playing Arthur. This is where Larry and the gang catch up with Sir Lancelot, and the fictional knight’s reality begins to break down. Still, he flees to the roof intent on letting the tablet’s spell disappear, thinking if he is not real then what is the point of continuing. Larry is able to talk Sir Lancelot off the metaphysical ledge, get the tablet back, arrange the tiles just so, and let the pale glow of Earth’s orbiter fall on the magical object. This restores all the exhibits to their miraculous function. In an emotional moment, Roosevelt tells Larry that the other American exhibits have decided to have the tablet stay in London, along with Ankmenrah, so that their family can be together. They are then able to make it back to New York while it is still dark (another miracle) and say their goodbyes. We are treated to one last New York reunion when the British Museum loans the tablet to the American Museum of Natural History, and Larry watches from outside in satisfaction.
They had to have another impossible plane ride in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, it seems. There are a bunch of other moments in the film that, like the second in the series, make it imminently forgettable. The first film in the series was a fun concept. Yet, as Hollywood so often does, they squeezed it for every penny they thought they could get out of it. I would not be surprised to see a fourth one, this time at the Louvre. Luckily, they have not done this, yet. I hope they stick to it because, as goodbyes go, this was a good one. They even had a nice little tribute to Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams as the end credits began to roll. It was time, too. Timing is something that is important in the Christian Faith. One of the ways the Bible talks about this idea is in how prophesied events happened in the “fullness of time.” This is a way of saying that it occurred when God ordained it to occur. This is only half of the picture. The other half is accepting. This is where these notions fit with the movie. Roosevelt saw that Larry could not go on for the rest of his life giving the entirety of his nights to museum exhibits who exist on the same schedule as a vampire. They had their adventures and good times together, and that is something for which they should be thankful. Confronting these kinds of moments is scary, whether you are talking about your personal or spiritual life. You see these sentiments expressed by Larry when he tells Roosevelt that he has no idea what he is going to do tomorrow, now that his run as their caretaker has come to an end. Roosevelt’s response is short, but wise, “How exciting!” For much of the movie, and this is exemplified in Larry’s relationship with Nick, you see him fighting against change. Life needs a plan, and it needs to be followed. There is an old saying that relates to this that says that while we plan, God laughs. Thankfully, God never calls us into anything we cannot handle, and that, too, is exciting.
Despite the emotional core of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, I got the impression that Ben Stiller was bored making the film. If you have seen the other two movies in the trilogy, you will probably be bored with it as well. I liked the sentiment at the end about moving on, but I feel like the only reason they were thinking in this way is because they were tired of producing these movies. I do not know how else to explain the decision to stop making hundreds of millions of dollars. Nonetheless, if you must watch it, know that it is a perfectly fine to view on any level.