I’ll be honest. I haven’t seen the first two films in the Night at the Museum franchise, so I had no idea what to expect when I went in to Secret of the Tomb aside from the fact that it had a star-studded cast and took place inside a historical museum full of artifacts and colourful characters. I like well-made family films, though, so I was hoping for the best.
The premise is fairly simple: the magic tablet that makes the exhibits at the museum come alive at night is starting to corrode, causing them to lose control and go crazy. The only person who knows the secrets behind the tablet is exhibited in London, so the gang has to travel to the British Museum to find out what to do before the tablet is fully ruined and they’re back to being wax figures forever. Throw into the mix a set of new exhibits from the new location —and a particularly feisty Sir Lancelot who thinks the tablet is his Holy Grail that will get him back to Camelot —and you’ve got a blockbuster film.
Ben Stiller once again plays a reliable straight man to all the hijinx of his wacky co-stars, but also gets the chance to be silly himself, with the introduction of La the Neanderthal. Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan get some good laughs in as Jedediah (a cowboy) and Octavius (a Centurion), especially when they realize they’re about to experience the volcanic destruction of Pompeii in one of the British exhibits (monkey pee is always a reliable source of laughter). And Rebel Wilson is funny during her few moments onscreen playing Tilly, the night guard of the British Museum. But my favourite was Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot, especially his character’s frustrating obsession with chivalry that gets on everyone’s nerves; it absolutely made sense for his character (and he looked pretty dashing in that armour, too!). His comedic timing is impeccable.
But there’s another layer to this film for us grown-ups. It’s the final film for both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams. There’s a tribute to them during the end credits that’s probably the best part of the whole film if you don’t have a small child with you. There’s a point in the film where Robin Williams’character, former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, has to tell Larry that he and the rest of the gang have made peace with the idea of never waking up again. Considering what was about to transpire in Robin’s life, that moment is especially poignant. My glasses certainly got foggy.
Overall, though, it’s a fun film with some funny bits and excellent special effects (I especially liked the Constellations). Generally, it’s a good choice for a family outing. It won’t blow your mind or anything, but it will be a pleasantly spent 97 minutes.