If you happened to be at The Carolina on Saturday night and heard a long, frustrated, audible sigh emanating from Theater 14, that was me, suffering through Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. I’d been lucky enough to miss the other two films in the series, only having heard tale of their awfulness, so I went knowing exactly what to expect and still got it. Add on the law of diminishing returns to an already soggy franchise, and you end up here, in a hell made of CGI hijinks and Ben Stiller camera-mugging.
This is the part in a review of a Shawn Levy film where I mention that I liked Levy’s Real Steel (2011), which seems more and more like a fluke when compared to the director’s other works. Secret of the Tomb is more in step with his other films in that it’s workmanlike at best, and drab, lowest common denominator nonsense at worst. The first film’s concept of museum pieces that come to life at night and wreak havoc was already cannibalized in its sequel, Battle of the Smithsonian, and goes the same route this time around, too. The best idea anyone could think of to juice the franchise is sending the movie’s main character, the museum night watchman Larry (Stiller), and a handful of secondary characters (including the late Robin Williams once again as Teddy Roosevelt) to London.
There’s a plot device about the magical tablet that brings everyone to life slowly failing, but it’s only a contrivance. It simply exists as a means of having new stuff become ambulatory in a wash of cheap CGI and low-rent adventure. The London setting is purely superficial, since the bulk of the film takes place on a soundstage. Then again, this is a film whose knowledge of England is an idea of Arthurian legend and — unfortunately — Rebel Wilson (who is, in fact, Australian).
Tacked on is some familial discourse between Larry and his son (Skyler Gisondo, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), something which seems to exist only to give the plot some semblance of tension, even though it has all the weight and import of a family sitcom. This is about where the level of comedy lies, family friendly enough (despite a heavy dose of gay jokes from Steve Coogan, still being made in the year 2014), but with a dose of pop culture dropped in and Stiller occasionally gussied up as a caveman. None of it’s funny. Even with the caveat that humor is subjective, none of it’s funny. So it’s not inspired, it’s not humorous and it’s definitely not original, which combined makes for a wholeheartedly dull time. Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.
Playing at UA Beaucatcher.