With Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Rebel Wilson, Rami Malek, Skyler Gisondo. Written by David Guion & Michael Handelman. Directed by Shawn Levy. Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language. 118 minutes.
Often, when a series gets to a third film, it’s running out of steam and just goes through the motions to try to separate moviegoers from their money one more time. While the original “Night at the Museum” had an interesting idea, did we really need to see museum exhibits come to life for a third time? NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB answers that question with a resounding and immensely entertaining, “Yes!”
Divorced dad Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) still has his job as night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in New York, but now is also director of nighttime events. Under his direction, the exhibits can perform as “special effects,” with no one the wiser that it’s actually ancient magic at work. However something is going wrong and the Egyptian tablet that makes it all possible is starting to corrode.
Larry and his young son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) are joined by several of the exhibits to find the father of Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), the only one knows the secret of the tablet. Unfortunately, that means they must travel to London where his father’s remains are in the British Museum. He will come to life in the presence of the tablet, and they can figure out what to do. Easier said than done.
The clever script by David Guion and Michael Handelman comes up with hilarious obstacles from a Neanderthal who looks like Larry (and thinks Larry is his father) to the arrival of Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) who doesn’t quite understand these foreign visitors but becomes involved with them. Then there’s the night guard at the London museum (Rebel Wilson), who begins to suspect something odd is going on.
Besides the special effects, the film is also filled with some surprising and hilarious cameos (not to be spoiled here). Of course it’s also touching to see the late Robin Williams return as Teddy Roosevelt. As in the previous films, he’s portrayed Roosevelt as an avuncular presence, providing much needed support to the frantic Larry. Also appearing briefly is the late Mickey Rooney, reprising his role as Gus, a retired museum guard. The film is dedicated to the two movie legends.
Stiller, when he has the material and a good director, can play broad physical comedy and tender character moments with ease, and under Shawn Levy’s direction he excels as both. (Levy directed the prior two installments allowing for continuity in style as well as content.) Stiller’s scenes with the Pharaoh required a nimble touch and he plays it perfectly, with a lot more ease than Christian Bale in the recent “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
There are several films competing for the family market this season, and this final edition of “Night of the Museum” is not only a fitting end to the series. It is a sheer delight.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.