The magic tablet that brings the inhabitants of New York’s Natural History Museum is becoming corroded and weak, so Larry (Ben Stiller) must take Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) to London to find out the history of the ancient magic from his parents. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Jed (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan) and the gang tag along for the ride, and they make friends with Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) along the way.
When I cast an eye back over the favourite movies of my childhood – Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The Goonies – they are invariably ones filled with magic, adventure and a little chaos. It feels like this ‘magic’ formula has been missing from kids’ movies of late, but Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has come along just on time to save the day.
Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Crystal the monkey and Owen Wilson are all back, along with Ricky Gervais and newcomers to the franchise Rebel Wilson and Dan Stevens. As always, this Night at the Museum film is one that lives and dies with the ensemble, but there are some outstanding performances therein. The chemistry between Coogan and Owen Wilson is fantastic, and they bounce off one another incredibly well, there is tons of adventure and of course, some incredibly touching moments including the late, great Robin Williams. Dan Stevens obviously has a whale of a time as the over the top romantic hero Sir Lancelot, and Rebel Wilson brings her awkward brand of humour to the whole affair. There are also some great cameos, including ones from Ben Kingsley and Hugh Jackman.
The script, to be fair, is exceedingly simple, but then this is the case with the best adventure movies aimed at kids. The clever concept – which still feels as though it was stolen from Toy Story – is still one of the best parts of the film, and is sure to get kids interested in visiting museums. As well as this, the concept gives rise to plenty of comedy surrounding characters finding themselves in a time they don’t understand, and being faced with mythical and dangerous beasts.
Director Shawn Levy has finally captured the right kind of essence for the Night at the Museum trilogy; mixing sentiment with adventure, magic with friendship and over the top characters with cynical ones. There are some fantastic set pieces – including one inspired by MC Escher – although at times it feels as though the movie is moving from one action sequence to another, story bedamned. Oh, and the last five minutes is complete unnecessary and takes a bit of the shine off the movie as a whole.
In all though, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is by far the best film in the franchise, and is filled with that spark of wonder that was so well done in the 1980s. Dan Stevens shines, Robin Williams brings the sentiment and the entire affair is, for the most part, fun and magical. That is, of course, if you can wipe the last five minutes from your memory.