While it’s not a particularly inventive title, the third instalment of Night at the Museum is more than just a rehashing of the previous two films. It opens in the past, taking us into the Egyptian desert where the magic tablet (that enables the modern-day museum’s exhibits to come to life at night) was originally discovered. While the fortune hunters are warned by a foreboding local not to remove the tablet from the sacred tomb where it is discovered, they fail to heed his warning, removing the entire contents of the tomb and setting the proverbial end in motion.
Back in modern-day New York, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is gearing up for the first night show at the Natural History Museum where he will showcase the museum’s exhibits in full magical motion. But the golden tablet that makes the museum’s life after dark possible is rapidly deteriorating and predictably causes the exhibits to go loopy and the showcase to go awry.
As a result, Larry discovers that if he doesn’t find a way to stop the tablet from deteriorating, he will lose his beloved after-dark friends forever. So he convinces his boss (Ricky Gervais) to send him to the British Museum to talk to the tablet’s creator; Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley) and to find out why it seems to be dying.
He takes his troubled son along for the ride and some well-loved favourites from the first two films, plus a couple of unexpected ones. Owen Wilson returns as the affable Jebediah, along with his Roman pal Octavius (Steve Coogan). Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), and Dexter the cheeky monkey also join in on the fun while Robin Williams returns as Teddy Roosevelt, which is a bittersweet delight.
While some might be groaning over a third instalment of Night at the Museum, the third time is actually a charm in this instance. Combining old characters and new, it is at its core, a quest movie. Tightly written with plenty of laughs, the exhibits brought to life at the British Museum are refreshingly clever.
Suffering various obstacles in their quest to get to the Egyptian section of the museum and with the tablet dying at a rapid rate, Larry’s quest soon becomes a race against time for him to save his friends.
Dan Stevens emerges as a pompous yet endearing Sir Lancelot, bent on finding the Holy Grail and returning to Camelot. The always hilarious Rebel Wilson pops up as the British Museum night guard and Hugh Jackman also makes a brief cameo appearance. Stiller’s role is two-fold here with him also playing the quirky caveman character of Lar, who is convinced that Larry is his father due to their similar physical appearance.
While some may consider the storyline contrived and predictable, there are still enough surprises to keep it fresh. This is a funny, whimsical adventure story suitable for the entire family, featuring excellent performances from the entire cast. Don’t miss it.
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