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Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

January 7, 2015

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Secret of the Tomb Poster

When I reviewed and recommended the dysfunctional family dramedy This is Where I Love You, I noted that I often end up enjoying the work of director Shawn Levy.  And his latest, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, is no exception.  It’s also one of his best films yet.

The third and presumably final entry in his blockbuster series that started way back in 2006 and continued in 2009, this is a wildly entertaining threequel that pays farewell to the characters, as well as departed co-stars Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams, who shines in one of his last performances.

New York security guard Larry Daly (Ben Stiller) continues to have his hands full, trying to parent his now teenaged son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) at home, while keeping watch over the Museum of Natural History at night, when the entire place comes alive.

But the reanimated historical figures, including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) and Atilla the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), as well as the tiny duo of Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan), and adorable monkey Dexter (Crystal), are starting to lose control.  The Egyptian tablet that allows them to come alive is quickly losing power, and the only way to stop them from becoming eternally frozen is to travel to the British Museum, with its owner Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek).  There they meet fellow security guard Tilly (Rebel Wilson), and accidentally bring to life the delusional Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens).

With some visually imaginative set pieces and cool special effects, the film is a blast to watch unfold.  The returning cast members all do a great job of reprising their characters, including more likeable work from Ben Stiller, who also hilariously takes on the part of caveman Laaa.  The newcomers also deliver some very funny moments.  Dan Stevens is absolutely delightful here, and arguably the comic high point of the film involves his confusion over a surprise cameo.  But there are also poignant undertones to Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb that elevate it above the level of most family blockbusters.

Everything that Robin Williams says or does in the last act of the film takes on deeper meaning in the wake of his tragic death, almost like he is saying goodbye to the audience, and letting us know that it’s going to be okay.  His passing hit me hard this summer, as it did so many others, and because of this I found it hard not to tear up during the final few scenes of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.  The story touches on themes of letting go of beloved characters, while still allowing them to live on through history, and it’s impossible to watch the film without mourning his death.

As a fan of these films, this third chapter left me with a smile on my face.  Fast and fun, with a few inspired comic bits and some surprisingly touching scenes, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is a fitting conclusion to this entertaining series, with the presence of Robin Williams providing a bittersweet and heartfelt centre.  Pure cinematic comfort food, and just what I needed at the end of a long year.

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