The “Night at the Museum” trilogy ends with less than a bang in the franchise’s new release, subtitled “Secret of the Tomb.” Despite a few good jokes and sight gags and some amusing cameos, you get the feeling that the series is played out.
Part of the problem is that the films have been essentially one-joke efforts, the joke being that, at night, the exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Natural History and Washington’s Smithsonian come to life, via special effects, posing various comic problems for security guard Larry, played by Ben Stiller.
Stiller is back for “Secret of the Tomb,” as is director Shawn Levy, and some members of the supporting cast, including Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais. Dexter, a Capuchin monkey with a penchant for mischief, also returns.
In an opening that’s an Indiana Jones knockoff – or homage, if you prefer – the movie introduces an ancient Egyptian gizmo that’s central to the (minimal) plot. If the gizmo isn’t repaired, the living exhibitions will revert to their lifeless selves. To forestall disaster, Larry and a group of regulars are required to take off for the British Museum, allowing the movie to introduce a few new characters.
Among those regulars are Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), the miniature cowboy Jedediah (Wilson) and the tiny centurion Octavius (Coogan). Two new characters stand out: Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens), who has a pretty good running gag of imitating Stiller’s facial expressions, and Rebel Wilson as a zany security guard. Gervais acquits himself decently as the New York museum’s director.
This was Williams’ last film, and, sadly, his performance here is not a memorable one.
The humor leans heavily on slapstick. But it’s also punctuated with entertaining cameos, including a couple from well-known veteran actors who appeared in the earlier films. Best of all is the unexpected appearance of an especially capable song-and-dance man, who will remain nameless in this review.
On the level of shtick and spectacle, younger audience members will be entertained by the antics of the cowboy-centurion buddy team, and CGI fans will savor such effects as a three-handed battle scene set inside an M.C. Escher drawing.
Otherwise, this film is mainly for “Night at the Museum” diehards.