When the exhibits at New York’s Natural History Museum start behaving strangely, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) – now the director of nighttime operations – must find out the cause. He learns that the Tablet, which magically brings Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and the other exhibits to life at night, has started to decay. Larry, along with his son and museum friends, must travel to London’s British Museum to learn how to prevent the Tablet’s magic from disappearing.
There’s a moment near the end of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb that’s made all the more poignant due to real-life circumstances. As Larry says goodbye to the various exhibits, he concludes with a visit to Teddy Roosevelt, who encourages him to go. While the scene is one of several clumsy attempts to pull at audience heartstrings, this scene is made far more poignant when taken as words from Robin Williams to an audience that misses him.
Unfortunately, the people behind the scenes responsible for bringing this movie to screens seem to have ignored this message. The original Night at the Museum had its charms, and its sequel had a great addition with Amy Adams. Here, though, everything seems to be working on autopilot. The story isn’t particularly complicated: the tablet which brings the museum exhibits to life is dying, and there’s only one exhibit who may know how to reverse the corrosion. The secondary storyline focuses on Larry’s concern about his son’s plans to not go to college.
For fans of the previous films who loved the large casts, it’s noticeably slimmed down here to core characters. While this allows for more from the characters that remain, including Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Rami Malek, there’s not a ton of material given to most of them. Ben Stiller gets the most attention here, between Larry and his new Neanderthal doppelgänger. They’re joined by Rebel Wilson, playing a British counterpart to Stiller, Dan Stevens as a slightly demented Lancelot, and Ben Kingsley as a powerful pharaoh. In light of Kingsley’s recent turn as an Israelite in Exodus: Gods and Kings, there’s something amusing about his flipped role here; it makes the line, “We love Jews. We owned 40,000 of them” darkly funny.
There’s not really much more to say, though. This film’s aimed pretty squarely at children. If you enjoyed the previous installments, you may enjoy this one. For a film series that’s already marketing a film as the last in a series, though, there’s a sense of apathy on display here that makes it seem like they wished the previous film, which was released nearly six years ago, had been the last installment instead.