Not every movie is a masterpiece but you can still enjoy it and that’s how I always felt about the Night at the Museum movies. They weren’t ‘good’ movies but I liked them and they had enough laughs and overall charm to make them worth a watch. I kind of feel the same about the National Treasure movies. I can imagine that back in the day lots of movies were made like them. Whether it was a stock shoot em up western or a fun action adventure show Hollywood has always made campy family friendly movies that are entertaining if not particularly memorable.
Unfortunately even these innocent franchises can strain the tenuous chord of likability they have and I’m afraid that is what Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb has done. Even with such marginal expectations I was really disappointed by it. Especially with the talent, it is a really lame film.
If you are unaware of the series it is a pretty simple set up. Basically Ben Stiller plays a night watchman at the Natural History Museum in New York and each night the characters from the museum become alive including a strange mixture of history and natural history that I don’t think any museum actually has. We have everything from Atilla the Hun to Teddy Roosevelt to a T-Rex. It is basically a Toy Story premise with various challenges threatening to shut down the museum and end the nightly lives of our heroes. The key to making it work is having enough characters and a witty enough script to keep it moderately entertaining. For instance, Night at the Museum 2 was helped immeasurably by Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart and Bill Hader as General Custer.
Unfortunately in Museum 3 the script isn’t funny enough and the new cast is woefully underused. The new challenge to the cast of characters is the magical tablet is starting to get a green mold on it and the magic is starting to lessen. Through convoluted series of events they all have to go to London to find the Egyptian home of the tablet and they all come with Ben Stiller’s Larry. The main new additions in London are Rebel Wilson as a security guard who doesn’t get one good joke sadly and I love her so much. She tries so hard to get the laughs but the material just isn’t there.
There was one funny scene where Lancelot storms in on Hugh Jackman playing King Arthur in Camelot on a stage. Got to hand it to Jackman for being willing to laugh at his Wolverine character and public persona.
I kind of felt like Night at the Museum 3 was trying to make a touching send off without giving us a good story on its own. It’s really a shame because it is our last appearance of Robin Williams and he is the one spot where the goodbye tone feels earned. I wish there was more for him to do than just say goodbye.
To show how this movie wastes talent we have Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson as the miniatures- two of the funniest men out there and their humor just falls flat. This movie even resorts to characters getting urinated on. I mean that is Adam Sandler territory and with such talent it is a real shame.
The worst part is the time spent with Ben Stiller and his son who wants to skip college and become a DJ. That’s just what I want in my campy family comedy, teenage father arguments. I mean how is that fun for kids?
In the end, I went in with very modest, measured expectations but Night at the Museum 3 couldn’t even meet those. It was just a waste and the only time I laughed was the Hugh Jackman bit and I did like saying goodbye to Robin Williams even if I wish he’d gotten more.
As far as content aside from the urinating monkey there isn’t anything offensive or bothersome. That said, I really don’t think it will have much to entertain kids. I think they will be bored by a lot of the relationship stuff and Egyptian tomb mumbo jumbo. I’d say Penguins of Madagascar is much funnier recent family comedy or even Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.
So in the end I can’t see giving it any higher than a D+