Friday, December 19, 2014
“Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb” – How is this still a thing?
I want to make it clear that I understand who this movie is for – children. That’s why it’s rated PG. It’s a harmless movie just trying to have a little fun and entertain the kiddos. In fact, if you are looking for a movie to take your kids to this Christmas, you should take them to Unbroken. Nothing says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas like a war movie about prisoners in a Japanese internment camp. Wait, what? Don’t take your kids to Unbroken; that would be a terrible idea. Take your kids to Night at the Museum 3 – a movie that goes out of its way to fit in a scene where a monkey pisses all over Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan and sends the message to kids that college is stupid and they should definitely throw parties when their parents aren’t home. Your call on movie night, parents.
I really wasn’t expecting much out of this film, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s one of those movies you watch, shrug at, and an hour later, forget you ever saw it. Really, you’re just glad you had a choice of movie that didn’t include 90-minute orc/human/elf/eagle/dwarf battle scenes, torture scenes, hospitals-filled-with-injured-people-being-bombed scenes, or God murdering thousands of innocent Egyptian children.
Secret of the Tomb has a very straightforward plot. The golden tablet that brings everything to life is corroding and night watchman Larry (Ben Stiller) must find a way to restore it. After consulting with the crooks from the original film, specifically Cecil (Dick van Dyke), he learns he must travel to the British Museum in London to speak with Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) father, Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), to learn the secrets of the tablet. Like any decent adventure story, there are obstacles in the way, mostly in the form of a hydra and Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens). Of course, the rest of the supporting characters (Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt, Sacajawea, the monkey, the tiny cowboy, and the tiny Roman) are there too because this movie was way too lazy to come up with any decent new characters.
That’s not to say they didn’t come up with new characters. Just not decent ones. As I said, Sir Lancelot is one of the main characters, and the very first question any educated person should be asking is “what is a fictional character doing at a history museum?” Or, “what is a fictional character’s suit of armor doing at a history museum and why would there be a wax figure inside of said armor?” The answer to that question is that it had to be a knight of the round table so that they could justify a cameo scene with Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve performing as King Arthur and Guinevere, respectively, in a stage performance called Camelot. Seriously, I did not make that up. To its credit, that scene is easily the best scene in the movie (I won’t ruin why), but also (and unfortunately) highlights how much better an actor Hugh Jackman is than everyone else in this film (sorry Ben Kingsley, but have you seen your latest work?).
In addition to Lancelot and Meren-ur-whatever, the film gives ample screen time to a new caveman (also played by Ben Stiller) and a British Museum security guard (Rebel Wilson). The caveman thing is supposed to be funny because he looks like Larry, but the movie ruins the joke by having Larry acknowledge the similarity almost immediately, rendering the caveman pointless. Wilson’s character is even more useless, for a couple of reasons. (1) Wilson is not funny. She wasn’t funny in Bridesmaids (though, to be fair, nobody in that movie was funny), she wasn’t funny in Pain & Gain, and Super Fun Night was cancelled during its first season because, you guessed it, not funny. (2) Judging by this movie, the British Museum is guarded by one single person, outside, in a guard shack with one single camera that points at the inside of an exterior door. Let me reiterate – a museum with thousands upon thousands of priceless artifacts is guarded by a lone, short, fat woman and no video surveillance or other security measures. Again, I realize this is a children’s movie, but COME ON!!!!
While we’re on the subject of the British Museum, I’m not sure the writers or producers or anyone involved in the making of this movie bothered to so much as Google what’s actually inside the British Museum, let alone step foot inside. The potential for comedy and new visuals was enormous, yet the best we get is a weird little golden troll, a hydra, and some Greek statues missing some limbs. Just one example of missed opportunity – didn’t the writers know that the Rosetta Stone is in that museum? Wouldn’t it have been funny to include a scene with Attila, the caveman, the monkey, and Larry standing by the stone and suddenly being able to understand each other? Kind of like the scene in Bedazzled where Brendan Fraser is a drug lord and is astounded that he can speak Spanish? (“¡Estoy hablando Español!”) Ye gods, did they blow that one.
Perhaps the worst part of the film is the barely-developed father-son tiff that occurs. Larry’s son informs Larry that he doesn’t want to go to college, but wants to be a DJ in some island off the coast of Spain. Larry harrumphs a bit, but the subject is dropped until the end of the film when Larry says he’ll support whatever and his son responds with “eh, whatever.” What was the point of that nonsense? Did the writers really try to include a human story in a movie featuring Owen Wilson receiving a golden shower from a monkey?
I could get into a lot of the incongruities of the film’s story and lack of continuity with the other films (the fix for the tablet and why the tablet is failing in the first place will make even the six year olds cry foul), but it’s really not worth it at this point in my review. Suffice it to say, any rules that were established in the first film are all but forgotten this time around, but that’s not surprising considering the lack of effort that went into the story. Just know that the alternative to Secret of the Tomb is scaring the Christmas out of them with movies featuring killing, torturing, bombing, and killing. Merry Christmas…?
Rating: Ask for all but three dollars back. That’s thirteen dollars for Hugh Jackman’s scene and minus ten for the rest.