Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb bids farewell to the franchise and Robin Williams
It’s billed as one of Robin Williams’ final performances, but is ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ as fun-fueled as the previous two films in the franchise?
Although it’s been nearly five months since Robin Williams died, the devastating ripples his death left on the entertainment industry – and really the world at large – are still being felt. Ever the busy entertainer, Williams had five films released posthumously, the latest being 20th Century Fox’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. I think the only other film with Williams that has not yet been released is Absolutely Anything, which is due in February according to IMDb but he is credited for voice work only in that film. To my knowledge, Night at the Museum marks the final time one can view him on the silver screen, which makes it somewhat special despite what other film critics are saying about it.
I’ve been a longtime fan of the Night at the Museum franchise since the first installment came out in 2006 for several reasons. One, I really love that it makes history come alive in a fun, meaningful way that children especially can relate to (for if we don’t learn from the past, we’re doomed to repeat it). I know I’ve said this before, but anything we can do to get kids interested in – and actually revved up – about history from an early age should be done. When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was a Canadian children’s program titled Today’s Special, which featured a department store at night. The main characters were Sam Crenshaw, a night security guard, Muffy the talking mouse, Jodie the store’s window dresser and a mannequin named Jeff who magically came to life each night as long as he was wearing his special magic hat. The premise of the Night at the Museum franchise has always reminded me a lot of that old TV show. Each night, the magic of Ahkmenrah’s tablet brings all the inanimate objects in New York’s American Museum of Natural History to life and only the night security guard Larry Daley gets to witness it all.
Secondly, these films feature great casting, from Ben Stiller as the affable Larry Daley and Williams as a stoic President Teddy Roosevelt to Ricky Gervais as Dr. McPhee (the museum’s stuffy, not-a-clue director), Patrick Gallagher as a hilariously over-the-top Attila the Hun, the hunky Rami Malek as Ahkmenrah and Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan as the miniature best buds duo Jedidiah and Octavius. Finally, the special effects are amazing each time. In my opinion, the third film is no exception. This time I was blown away by the constellations in particular. Being able to see Orion the Hunter and the various other star clusters that make up the zodiac dance over the heads of the museum benefit-goers was nothing short of bedazzling.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb welcomes back all your familiar favorites, including Dick Van Dyke, the late Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs as former museum security guards Cecil, Gus and Reginald, who give helpful advice to Stiller. Even Dexter (Crystal the Monkey) is back for the final curtain bow. The only characters noticeably missing are Amy Adams as the plucky pilot Amelia Earhart, Bill Hader as George Armstrong Custer and Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible. It also introduces a few new characters that I instantly loved – Rebel Wilson as Tilly, the London museum’s night security guard, Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot and Ben Kingsley as Ahkmenrah’s pharaoh father Merenkahre. Skyler Gisondo has stepped in as Stiller’s now grown-up son Nick. Also look for Stiller portraying an additional character – one of the cavemen named Laaa. At times, this character can grate on your nerves, but I think your kids might love him.
The plot is a relatively simple one. We learn that the power of Ahkmenrah’s tablet is fading and Stiller and crew must travel to the museum in London where Ahkmenrah’s parents’ mummies are located to discover the secrets of the tablet from the only person who knows them all (his father), including why it was created, how it works and what can be done to prevent its power from fading away completely.
There’s a finality about the third film that makes me believe it was planned to end the trilogy long before Williams’ unexpected death. The goodbye that Stiller’s character delivers to Williams’ Roosevelt in the end felt painfully real to me. It brought tears to my eyes, along with the dedication. It was fitting that the series began with Williams and ended with him. Williams was Stiller’s right-hand man, always there to dole out kind, intelligent words of advice when things looked despairing or particularly out of hand. I honestly can’t visualize anyone else filling the role of Roosevelt, so I hope the powers-that-be leave this franchise alone. It felt like it came full circle with the trilogy and I don’t need to see another Night at the Museum. I’m afraid they might wear out the magic and wonderment of it all if they did so.
There’s a dedication at the end to Rooney and Williams that brought fresh tears to my eyes as the credits rolled, mostly because of Williams. Don’t get me wrong, Rooney is equally missed, but he lived a long, rich life. His death wasn’t quite as shocking as that of Williams. He also only appeared in the film in one brief scene. No, it was the touching tribute to Williams that made me shed more tears. I believe it said something like, “And for Robin Williams … the magic never ends.” It’s Stiller and Williams – their chemistry and their heartfelt performances – that make this franchise shine. While I don’t feel this film is the strongest of the three, I enjoyed it for what it was – the ending to an imaginative trilogy that made being a dork who revels at the prospect of visiting a museum seem so much cooler. Although Williams may have departed this Earth, his memory will live on in the lives of all those he touched with his prolific acting career, and especially, in all those children who grew up watching this magical series.