Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Posted December 18, 2014 by in


Total Score

2.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: family, adventure, comedy
Director: Shawn Levy
MPAA Rating: PG
Actors: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: 12/19/2014
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox, 21 Laps Entertainment, 1492 Pictures, TSG Entertainment
What We Thought

In this third and final iteration, the series is just starting to get good. It has adventure, monsters, peril, and a pretty good sense of humor, not to mention a real story.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
The first Night at the Museum movie goes like this:  Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) takes a job as a nightshift security guard at the Museum of Natural History in New York.  He soon discovers that a magical tablet brings the exhibits to life at night:  cavemen, civil war soldiers, a T-Rex, King Ahkmenrah, Attila the Hun, Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and a capuchin monkey named Dexter, among others.
     However, the Tablet of Ahkmenrah is corroding, causing the exhibits to run amuck.  Ahkmenrah’s father, Pharaoh Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), may know why.  Larry travels to the Natural History Museum in London, where Merenkahre is kept, in search of answers.
     I won’t spoil it, but I will say that the reason for the tablet’s decay is bologna (the tablet was buried underground for 3000 years, so why is it having a problem now?…), but even so, at least it gives the story direction, something missing from the anarchic original Night at the Museum film.  The first film didn’t have a plot, just a situation:  Larry guards a crazy museum for three nights.  Now at least there’s a goal, something at risk, you know, a real screenplay (and it’s worth noting there are new screenwriters onboard).
     Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan return as Jedidiah and Octavius, cowboy and Roman soldier figurines respectively, and Ricky Gervais reprises his role as the director of the NY museum.  Rebel Wilson joins the cast as a London museum security guard, as well as Dan Stevens as Lancelot, who aides Larry and company on their quest.  However, Lancelot has a case of Buzz Lightyear Syndrome, and really believes he is the knight of Arthurian legend.
     In a subplot unrelated to the tablet, Larry’s son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) wants to take a year off after graduating from high school, but Larry won’t hear of it.  What does this have to do with anything?  Nothing—at first glance.
     The film opens with an archeologist and his son, who discovers the tablet in Egypt back in 1938.  Flash-forward to present day, where Ben Stiller also portrays a wax caveman statue named “Laa” who keeps calling Larry “dada.”  The Secret of the Tomb is about father-son relationships.  But this isn’t a movie with daddy issues.  This is a movie with son issues.
     Whether they like it or not, parents have to accept their grown children’s choices, what they major in at college—if they go at all—who they marry, etc.  However, Secret of the Tomb takes this to an extreme.  Spoilers from here on.
     At the end, the exhibits decide that Ahkmenrah should stay in London with his father, along with the tablet.  This means that the exhibits in New York won’t come to life anymore, and Larry must accept that this is not his decision to make.   However, this is problematic in two fairly obvious ways.
     First, it renders the plot pointless.  What was it all for if not to ensure that the statues, wax figures and so on, would continue to come alive at night?  Secondly, their decision to no longer walk and talk, to become lifeless and inanimate, has undertones of suicide (and parallels how Robin Williams’ own life ended).
     This is exactly the opposite of the end this kind of story should have.  What did Pinocchio want?  To become a real boy, not just an animated puppet, but truly alive.  What did Data from Star Trek want?  To become more human.  I get that The Secret of the Tomb ends this way to bring the franchise to a close, but this just wasn’t the way.
     And it’s a shame, too.  In this third and final iteration, the series was just starting to get good.  Up until the climax, I was actually having a fairly good time.  It has adventure, monsters, peril, and a pretty good sense of humor, not to mention a real story, however flawed.
     The film ends on a bittersweet and uncertain note, with Larry once again unsure where he’ll go and what he’ll do, just like he was when he walked into the museum for the first time looking for a job.  It ends the way it began.  It is, if nothing else, fitting.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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