Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: Larry Daly’s (Ben Stiller) wax museum friends begin to lose their powers when the magical Tablet of Ahkmenrah begins to rot. Their only hope is for Larry and his some of his waxwork pals including Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Jedediah (Owen Wilson) & Octavius (Steve Coogan) to travel to the London museum and learn from Pharaoh Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) how to give restore the tablet before it’s too late.

REVIEW: It seems inevitable these days that every successful franchise is contractually bound to span at least three installments. Thus, we’re getting another NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM even though everyone involved has seemingly moved on to other things, with Stiller seeming to favor indies (including the excellent WHILE WE’RE YOUNG) and directing (THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY) while director Shawn Levy’s been branching out into drama (THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU) and more. As a result, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB has a definite sense of finality to it (lest this make an absolute ton of money), made bittersweet by Robin Williams’ tragic passing.

Indeed, watching SECRET OF THE TOMB is largely depressing, just for the fact that it’s Williams’ swan song, although he’s as committed to the part as he ever was and wisely isn’t sidelined by Levy and co., considering his death. Because of this, I’m tempted to give the latest NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM a pass, were it not for the fact that it’s simply not very good. The second installment, BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN, was actually a lot of fun, benefitting from a larger scope, energetic direction, and an absolutely adorable performance by Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.

This one is more like the first film, with a smaller scale and a heavier emphasis on comedy where the second one aspired to be more of an adventure film. The problem here is that the joke is old. Everyone’s shtick has worn to the breaking point, especially Wilson and Coogan’s Jedediah and Octavius, who spend most of the film conveniently separated from the rest of the normal-sized actors, probably saving on the SFX bill somewhat. There’s also only so much humor to be gotten out of a cheeky Capuchin monkey, who figures way too prominently into the plot. With Stiller’s security guard typically being the straight man, a doppelganger is invented to give him a little more to do, with Stiller playing an escapee from the caveman diorama. This also gets old, fast.

Perhaps predictably, the only ones that give the film a jolt are the two newcomers, Sir Lancelot as played by DOWNTON ABBEY’s Dan Stevens (on a roll after THE GUEST) and Ben Kingsley as Pharaoh. Stevens’ seems to have a flair for comedy and gives more ammunition to the notion that he’s a mega-star just waiting to happen. He’d be my choice for Snake Plisken if that ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK reboot winds up getting made (he would have been a great Kyle Reese in TERMINATOR: GENISYS). As for Kingsley, he’s never not good and has one pretty funny exchange with Stiller when he learns his character is Jewish.

The best thing that can be said about SECRET OF THE TOMB is that at ninety minutes it’s never too painful to sit through. Still, it’s pretty lackluster, with tons of talent being underused (like Ricky Gervais) or not used at all (Rachael Harris is basically an extra). It’s not awful, but the series has clearly run out of gas. Everyone involved is clearly anxious to move on, and it seems apparent on-screen. Kids may like it, but the teens that grew up watching the first two probably would probably be better served by edgier fare.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.