Friday, December 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb [2014]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb [2014] (directed by Shawn Levy, screenplay and story by David Guion and Michael Handelman along with Mark Friedman, characters by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant) continues and perhaps concludes this very nice / family friendly series of films about lowly New York Museum of Natural History night security guard Larry Daley (played by Ben Stiller), who in the first film, Night at the Museum [2006], discovered that thanks to a magically endowed ancient Egyptian tablet, all the statues / wax figures in the museum "come alive" at night. 

Among the "people" that Larry met in the first film were: (1) Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams); (2) an eyes rolling Sacajaweja (played by Mizou Peck) (Lewis and Clark NEVER asked her for directions ;-); (3) a strangely sad Attila the Hun (played by Patrick Gallagher) (who pillaged because he never had a good father-figure in his life ;-); (4) two miniature figurines, one of an American "Wild West" era prospector named Jedediah (played by Owen Wilson) and another of Roman Centurion Octaius (played by Steve Coogan) from neighboring (and it turns out competing) "dioramas" (Jedediah and his miner friends would try to "miniature dynamite" their way into the neighboring Roman empire themed "diorama" while the Romans would try to blow their way into the "Wild West" themed "diorama" with a battering ram... ;-); and (5) finally "young" Egyptian pharoah Akhmenrah (played by Rami Malek) to whom the magical tablet "belonged."  All these figures, who previously just caused havoc in the Museum after dark come to like the lowly and previously largely down-on-his-luck / friendless, night-watchman Larry and later rally to save his job when HE gets blamed for the mess that they cause each night.  And thus, an ensemble for many, many playfully "historically based" adventures was born ...

The second movie, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [2009], moved the story to, well, Washington D.C., where at the Smithsonian Institute Larry and his "band of anachronistic merrymen/women" met the energetic and brave Amelia Earhart (played there by Amy Adams), the hapless Indian-War loser General Custer (played there by Bill Hader) as well as a true "gang" of History's "bad guys" including a cursed Egyptian pharoah named Khanumrah (played there by Hank Azaria), Ivan the Terrible (played there by Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (played there by Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (played there by Jon Bernthal).  The "gang of baddies" had nefarious plans of "world domination" if only they could get their hands of the magical tablet ... ;-).  Much ensued...

The current movie, moves the story to the British Museum, where N.Y.C. Museum of Natural History's "young" pharoah Akhmenrah's father Merenkhare (played by Ben Kingsley) "lives."  The magical tablet was starting to wear-out and the characters from the N.Y.C. museum had to figure out why.  So ... Larry as well as a number of the other characters ... find their way to London's British Museum, and ... much again ensues ;-). 

Among that which ensues is that they meet "Sir Lancelot" (played by Dan Stevens) who, when brought to life by the magical tablet has an interesting problem that differs from the experiences of the other figures under its spell: Lancelot never actually existed, but NOW there he is ;-).  It's an interesting take on the question of "What to do IF YOU "DISCOVER" THAT _YOUR WHOLE LIFE_ HAS BEEN 'A LIE.'" ;-). 
Another priceless bit that perhaps is a MINOR "SPOILER" here but is simply worth sharing is the dialogue between the Ben Kingsley's Pharoah Merenkhare and Ben Stiller's Larry the Security Guard when Pharoah hears that Larry's "half Irish and half Jewish."  Pharoah says delightfully: "Oh I always LOVED Jews, I used to own 40,000 of them ;-).  Always, happy people, loved to sing..."  To which Larry responds: "Oh, believe me, the feeling wasn't mutual.  They spent 40 years in the desert running away from you.  WE STILL GET TOGETHER _EVERY YEAR_ to talk about it ;-)"

Additionally, the film had its (since its making) poignant moments.  Two actors from the film, Mickey Rooney (who plays a bit part as a retired museum security guard) and Robin Williams have died since the making of the film, Robin Williams, of course, of suicide.  Seeing Williams' ever "saddish" smile is quite sad to watch.

In any case, a very good film capping a very nice three part, ever family friendly series.  Good job folks!  Good job!

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