A Night at the Museum? The Secret of the Tomb Explained

21 Dec

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Fans of the Night at the Museum films will finally learn about the kind of magic instilled into Akhmenrah’s tablet. This Ancient Egyptian artifact brings exhibits to life and opens doorways to mysterious worlds. It also nicely plays into all three films in different ways. The first showed that living history is important, the second explored with how legacies are created and the third revelled in how change must happen. Secret of the Tomb revealed to Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) that now is the time to let his son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) make important decisions in his life. That’s tough to do when he catches him throwing a party when he comes home early after a tough evening at work.

When a gala event unveiling new exhibits goes awry, Daley is at a loss when he witnesses chaotic behaviour from Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and the various displays. When one of them includes the star constellations coming to life and attacking people, perhaps nobody read their horoscope for that day. The only person who realizes what’s going on is Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) himself, when he sees the tablet is turning green. He believes the magic that brings them to life is fading and he looks to Daley for help.

This Guardian of Brooklyn has no clue in how to save his friends. He discovers that Cecil Fredericks (Dick Van Dyke) may have some answers. He worked for the museum ever since the tablet was put there. In what this feisty octogenarian can recall, it was part of a tomb that he discovered back in 1938. Many items, including three sarcophagi, were removed by his archaeologist father and were sent to two museums. Half went to the Museum of Natural History and the other to the British Museum. Although the young Fredericks was warned “the end will come” by workers, nothing ever came from it until nearly a hundred years later. The tone set by the strange introduction does not get explained until later, and the answer is a very respectable one. This cameo by Van Dyke along with Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs does not serve a lot of purpose other than to maybe explain that they have put behind their mistakes and they just want to enjoy what’s left of their lives at its fullest.

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In a smart way, this film shows the best in what Rooney and Robin Williams represents of their comedic legacy. Although the Night at the Museum movies will never win awards, it will win hearts who love a fun movie. Part of the reason has to come from the intention that the film’s producers — writers and director’s included — want to instil upon audiences. Using Williams’ performance as an example, he played a wonderful and enduring Teddy Roosevelt. He’s a sage advisor to a very clueless Larry. The second film showed Amelia Earhart’s (Amy Adams) exuberance in her way she embraces every new adventure. She sees that Larry has lost his moxie and helps him find it. The third movie turns the tables around with a troubled Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) being something of an antagonist. Literature depicted him as a tragic hero. He caused strife within Camelot because of his secret love for Guinevere. In this film, he steals the tablet to regain his honour with King Arthur, but little does he know that he’s simply a piece of wax.

And therein lies a continuity problem. In the Battle of the Smithsonian, Earhart knew right away that she’s a simulacrum and when daylight comes, she will become a display again. However, as long as she chases the night, and keeps flying, she can remain alive. Lancelot believed he was the real deal. No explanation is really offered. Another issue is that Ahkmenrah’s older brother Pharaoh Kahmunrah was never acknowledged. Either this sibling was excommunicated, thus resulting in Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) and Shepseheret (Anjali Jay), having another child they would love, or this troubled child was left to an uncle to raise, because all he sought was power. To raise another child with good values was probably Merenkahre’s goal. But when the entire family has knowledge about this tablet and only three of the four were buried together, just what happened in the past really needs to be asked. That can lead to another movie so any nagging questions can be explained. Perhaps the producers can send the cast to Cairo‘s rich hall of exhibits.

Although the Night at the Museum films are made to spotlight many comedic talents in one film and has a formulaic construction, just what can another movie offer? Daley’s story is finished. He’s done a good job in raising Nick. And the torch (the tablet) is passed to Tilly (Rebel Wilson), who learns about its powers and is the new custodian. She makes for a great replacement should the saga continue, and just maybe, Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais) can get more of a role now that he is in the know about what goes on in a night at the museum. There are plenty more comedic talents from the UK who would love to be in this franchise. The few that are present now is merely a tease. When considering Stevens left the acclaimed drama Downtown Abbey for this film, that says something about where this actor wants to expand his horizons.

Sadly, when this film is up against The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opening weekend, only final numbers will tell if this series is worth continuing. For now, this saga has come to an end.

3½ Stars out of 5

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