Review – Third Time’s Not Always The Charm (“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”)

Just like The Hobbit, this is the (possible) conclusion of the wildly successful Night at the Museum trilogy that started in 2006 with Ben Stiller and the late, great Robin Williams. A family-friendly comedy goldmine that gave us some wonderful comedic moments. Hey, y’know that story about the third movie in a trilogy not being anywhere as good as the others? Well…

After a prologue about the origin of that magical tablet, we see museum night watchman and keeper of the secret, Larry Daley (Stiller) having a big problem. A disastrous fundraiser at his museum made all the statues and stuff act all weird. It looks like the cause is the Egyptian tablet of Ahkmenrah, the one that makes all the museum statues and creatures come to life from dusk to dawn. It’s slowly beginning to decay and die out. But why? Larry first consults the original night watchmen (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs), but that doesn’t help. No, the only way to find out to is to visit England and ask Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) parents, Pharaoh Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) and his mom, Shepseheret (Anjali Jay).

Along for the trip, Larry and his son, Nicky (Skyler Gisondo), ship in a crate his statue friends from the NYC museum: mini-figures Jedidiah the cowboy (Owen Wilson) and Octavius the Roman (Steve Coogan), Pres. Roosevelt (Williams), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), a Larry Daley look-a-like Neanderthal named La (Stiller again), along with Ahkmenrah and Dexter the monkey.

They get past the annoying Tilly, the British Museum’s night guard (Rebel Wilson), and the gang are greeted inside by a helpful Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) who joins their quest. After a detour or two, being attacked by this ‘n’ that and losing Jedidiah and Octavius, Ahkmenrah is reunited with his family. We then find out from Pharaoh that the tablet is dying because of a lack of moonlight! But, in a strange twist of fate, Lancelot steals the tablet in an effort to find and save his Guinevere. And the chase is on through the streets of London where, in what is the funniest part of the movie, Lancelot stops a stage performance of Camelot where two named Hollywood stars are performing. That scene is hysterical.

The climax on the theater’s rooftop is woefully anti-climatic and quite dull, leading to the film’s sentimental epilogue. Credited with four screenwriters (Robert Ben Garant, David Guion, Michael Handelman, and Thomas Lennon), which probably accounts for the listless plot, the story meanders with only a handful of laughs and a couple of action scenes. Director Shawn Levy, who helmed the last two Museum movies, hiccuped on his swan-song here, trading in the fast-paced madness from the last two movies, for a tired sitcom-y retread that lacked any real fun or excitement. The laughs are few and far between, but they were mostly had by newcomer Stevens as Lancelot. His appearance in the second act gave the movie a much needed jolt, but it simply wasn’t enough to sustain the entire movie. 

It was also bittersweet to see Williams and Rooney in their final roles on film, which added a note of extra sadness, but it was also nice to see the great TV legend Dick Van Dyke still dancin’ and lookin’ good. As far as the end of a trilogy goes, just pull out the second movie, Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian and pretend THAT is the final movie. It was the best in the series.

Side note: In what has to be THE worst continuity errors ever, watch the Egyptian tablet with it’s nine rotating squares. For every scene or cut, they switch positions! It’s laughable! You can even play a drinking game with it!

Mannequin (1987)

Having an Egyptian curse mane an inanimate statue come to life isn’t anything new, just ask Kim Cattrall from Sex in the City. In 1987, she and Andrew McCarthy did a very silly movie at the height of the 80’s cookie-cutter comedy movie factory. This is Mannequin, and it’s about as ridiculous as you can get.

In Ancient Egypt, Ema “Emmy” Heshire (Cattrell) hides in a pyramid from her mother because she doesn’t want to marry who her mom has picked out. Emmy prays to the gods to get her out of the mess and to find her true love, so they ZAP! Make her disappear! Not exactly what she had in mind.

Fast-forward to 1987 Philadelphia and a young would-be artist, Jonathan Switcher (McCarthy) who longs to express his true artistic self, but dang it, nobody will give him the chance! On one job he assembles a beautiful, perfect mannequin (looks just like Emmy) and immediately becomes obsessed with it… even in love with it! Yeah, I know! Creeeepy!

Anyway,  Switcher manages to save the life of department store manager, Claire Timkin (Estelle Getty) who hires him as a window display guy along with the outrageously flamboyant Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor–wildly funny). Vice President Richards (James Spader) and takes-his-job-way-too-seriously security guard Felix Maxwell (G. W. Bailey, who almost always played these roles) simply don’t like him.

One night after fawning over his Emmy mannequin, it… COMES ALIVE! But only to him! Naturally he freaks out, but having a true love is better than none, right? Together they create unique and dazzling window displays for the store that are major hits with the public, even though Richards wants him fired for his unnatural behavior. After all, he hangs out with that mannequin. I mean, all the time! Even sleeping with it! Double creeepy!

But the store’s competition sees potential in Switcher and his mannequin-muse and tries to lure him away, but he refuses. This sets off a war between the two stores as Emmy is kidnapped and Switcher has to rescue her in a wild battle inside the department store while Emmy is about to shredded on a conveyor belt! Will she come alive at the last moment and prove she’s real? What do YOU think?

A pure paint-by-the-numbers screenplay by Michael Gottlieb and Edward Rugoff with direction by Gottlieb, it was probably a paycheck for the stars and footnote in their resume. It’s not a bad movie, per se, it’s just silly fantasy nonsense with stock characters clowning around and saying funny lines. Although this movie did fairly well at the box office, a terrible sequel popped up in 1991 called Mannequin 2: On The Move and starred Kristy Swanson as the frozen-in-time mannequin. Only Meshach Taylor reprised his role as Hollywood Montrose. It bombed big-time at the box office. I mean, nuclear!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.