Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)

(On Cable TV, December 2015) The Night at the Museum series has its own unlikely formula perfected by this third installment: Magically-reanimated members of the New York museum exhibits get to travel to another museum on some irrelevant pretext, meet the local magically-reanimated characters, have special-effects-heavy adventures and go home.  Director Shawn Levy is well-used to the formula by now and it shows in the strengths and weaknesses of the film.  Ben Stiller mugs for the camera, everyone else hams it up, cheap jokes abound, there’s some Egyptian woo-woo to hold the jokes together and the movie ends before anyone gets exasperated.  It’s familiar to the point that this third installment doesn’t get to try very hard to be witty or clever: Despite taking place at the hallowed British Museum, Secret of the Tomb seems rote and lifeless, coasting on familiar shtick (including a last vigorous Teddy Roosevelt performance by the late Robin Williams) but not pushing the envelope with any of its new characters — except, fitfully, Rebel Wilson’s security guard.  The Hugh Jackman cameo is amusing and so is the M.C. Escher-inspired sequence, meaning that the film isn’t entirely on auto-pilot.  But it does feel like a re-heated attempt to extend a concept past its prime, and this feeling that it’s about time that the show ends means that the final moments of the film aren’t as poignant as anyone would have liked.  There are, thanks to the generous budget and the high-concept, a few things to see.  But those aren’t quite enough to make Secret of the Tomb feel worthwhile as more than another attempt to rely on what worked in the previous films of the series.  There may or may not be another installment –who cares at this point?

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