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Movie Night – 'Night at the Museum' rated 'decent' (Dec. 31, 2014 issue)

You thought sequels were only for summer movies, or for the Hunger Games franchise. Yet, here we are, final installments of trilogies two weeks in a row in December. “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” is, mercifully, the final movie of a series that is out of new ideas.
The movie begins with a gala at the Museum of Natural History featuring the museum exhibits that come to life each night thanks to a sacred tablet that is part of the Ancient Egypt exhibit at the museum. A planetarium has been constructed at the museum and the constellations are debuted to a public that believes all of the museum exhibits are nothing more than actors or special effects. The gala, run by former night watchman and current director of the night program, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), turns into a disaster due to a problem with the tablet.
The tablet is the lifeblood of the museum exhibits. Without the tablet, as is seen in the second movie, the museum exhibits remain just that, lifeless exhibits. With the tablet nearby the exhibits come to life as the sun sets and return to exhibits when the sun rises. Among many others, the exhibits feature Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) atop his trusty steed, Atilla the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), a miniature cowboy named Jedediah (Owen Wilson), a miniature Roman named Octavius (Steve Coogan), and an Egyptian prince named Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek). The exhibits and Larry are a dysfunctional family, which makes sense during the holiday season.
Some type of corrosion is slowly covering the tablet and draining it of its magical powers. The tablet is in the exhibit with Ahkmenrah, but he knows nothing of its secrets. Ahkmenrah reveals that only his father knows the secrets of the tablet. After Larry learns that Ahkmenrah’s parents are part of an exhibit at the British Museum of Natural History the gang goes on a trip to London.
When they arrive at the British Museum with the tablet the exhibits there are awakened for the first time. They are strong and dangerous. The group is saved from a Triceratops fossil by Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens). They must also battle a multi-headed snake from Asia. The group races to find Ahkmenrah’s father and rejuvenate the tablet before it’s too late.
Two things are expected from all “Night at the Museum” movies: excellent special effects and a movie suitable for the entire family. In those two respects “Secret of the Tomb” does not disappoint. However, in every other respect the movie does not live up to the high standard set by its predecessors.
The problem with “Secret of the Tomb” could also be considered its strength: it is just like the other movies in the series, so similar that you feel as if you have already seen this movie. And you have, only the location has changed. The same gags with the same, or very similar, issues that crop up to defeat Larry and the come-to-life exhibits. Other than Sir Lancelot, the new exhibits in the British Museum don’t add much to the story. For example, in New York the museum has a T-Rex skeleton, in London there’s a Triceratops skeleton and their actions are very similar. Such a lack of originality is a sure sign that this franchise should conclude, not to be resurrected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad movie at all, but it’s certainly not groundbreaking.
I would describe the movie as cute, or maybe decent is a better choice of words. The only thing that separates “Secret of the Tomb” from the first two movies is a few new characters, and they are not unique enough to elevate the movie to anything above average.
Grade: B
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor, and brief language.