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Review: Night at the Museum 3: Been There, Seen That

By Paloma Sharma
December 26, 2014 18:00 IST

Ben Stiller in The Night at the Museum: Secret of the TombRepetitive and a tad cheesy, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb would have warned moviegoers better of its overly Christmas-y intentions were it named 'Once Upon a Time in the Museum Dobaara!' writes Paloma Sharma.

Filmmaking can be quite like gambling at times. And the key to being a successful gambler is to know when to walk away.

Unfortunately, Shawn Levy, director of the Night at the Museum series, missed out on that bit of wisdom from the popular Kenny Rogers song.

The Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb centres, once again, around the golden tablet of Ahkmenrah. Only this time, our heroes embark on an overseas adventure.

In 1938, 12 year old CJ slipped when the sandy desert floor gave way, while accompanying his father on an Egyptian expedition, and ended up discovering the tomb of Ahkmenrah by falling into it.

When his father asked for the contents of the tomb to be packed up for the archaeologists to take back to their countries of origin, the fearful locals warned them, as locals in such films always do, with wide eyes and heavy gasps: 'The end will come.'

Years later, as Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) unveils the Museum of Natural History's nighttime programme to the public, the inhabitants of the museum, who come alive, start acting strangely and end up destroying the exhibition. That costs Dr McPhee (Ricky Gervais) his job.

Ahkmenrah brings to Larry's attention that the tablet, the magic of which is responsible for the exhibits of the museum coming to life after sunset, is beginning to corrode. The more it corrodes, the more the exhibits return to their original state.

In order to figure of what is wrong with the tablet and how it can be fixed, Larry & Co travel to the British Museum of Natural History to consult Ahkmenrah's father, Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), who is the only one who knows the secrets of the tablet.

The third installment of the Night at the Museum series will make regular patrons of cinema nostalgic for two reasons, namely, the late Robin Williams and the late Mickey Rooney. Once the nostalgia wears off, however, the repetitiveness of things begins to become quite difficult to ignore.

Thankfully, the film shifts to a different museum, adding fascinating new exhibits such as the nine-headed serpent Xiangliu, a highly entertaining and equally clueless Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens, of Downtown Abbey fame) and the cutest little statue of Garuda one would have ever encountered.

While Stevens really cranks up the energy levels of the film, Stiller seems to be more reserved in his approach. Perhaps he too is tired of the saga of the living exhibits running on for so long.

Owen Wilson's Jedidiah and Steve Coogan's Octavious provide comic relief along with Crystal, the Capuchin who plays Dexter; except that the humour written out for the primate finds itself tilting more towards gross than it does towards funny.

The Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb retains several aspects from earlier installments, making one feel like one has already been there, seen that. Even the feel -- the production design and background score -- remain similar.

The charm of the Night at the Museum series, at least for yours truly, was that even after coming out of the cinema hall, you still get to believe that Larry (who was quite a likeable until he turned into a full time worrying parent with an idiot child, and part time philosopher) was still out there, a million miles away, living it up with the gang after nightfall. The Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb effectively managed to kill that by tying up the ends so tightly that it leaves very little room for further imagination.

This isn't to say that Night at the Museum 3 is a bad film, or even a boring one. It has its moments and does manage to coax some laughs out of you.

Repetitive and a tad cheesy, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb would have warned moviegoers better of its overly Christmas-y intentions were it named 'Once Upon a Time in the Museum Dobaara!'

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Paloma Sharma in Mumbai
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