DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Night At The Museum 3 – Secret of the Tomb (PG) (USA, 2014)

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Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is back and we’re quite a few years on from the previous two films. He’s in charge of the “night program” and about to put on a big show of all the museum displays to a large group of rich supporters and benefactors when suddenly all of the displays start acting weirdly and terrorising all the guests. Larry and Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) discover that something strange is happening to the magical tablet that brings all of them to life. Ahkmenrah’s only suggestion is for them to ask his father who gave him the tablet, the only problem is he’s in the British Museum in London. Larry hatches a plan to get them to London, and as our cast of characters make their way into the Museum at night, they discover that the newly awoken displays are all confused and potentially not as helpful as they’d like.

All of our favourite characters have returned, including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and the dynamic pint-sized duo of cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Roman soldier Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Dexter the mischievous Capuchin monkey. Our new characters include a Neanderthal who strikes a remarkable resemblance to Larry and calls himself Laaa (also played by Ben Stiller), there’s Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens ) and British night guard Tilly (Aussie comedy star Rebel Wilson) and Ahkmenrah’s father, the Pharaoh Merenkahre (Sir Ben Kingsley) who ultimately knows the “secret of the tomb” and what it is that powers the tablet’s magical ability. To add to Larry’s troubles his now almost an-adult son Nicky (Skyler Gisondo) is not sure what he wants to do with his life, insisting on taking a gap year and not going to college now that he’s finished high school. And he’s potentially about to stumble down the same uncertain road as Larry did when he was younger. This causes Larry to re-evaluate how good a father figure he is for his son and whether or not he’s given his son enough guidance to make the right decisions in life.

Director Shawn Levy is back and this time he has Michael Handelman and David Guion to handle the screenplay and script duties. Levy has managed to keep the Night At The Museum series a consistently fun family romp with both the previous films and stays true to that with Secret of the Tomb. Where the second film was a little too heavy on cast and probably too overloaded with new characters, Levy opts to stick to the strongest characters and minimise the amount of new faces onscreen as well as limiting those new faces’ screentime. The story itself is pretty straightforward, bad things are happening and our hero has to figure it out quickly otherwise everybody is doomed, so this makes it nice and simple for kids to follow. Both Handelman and Guion wrote the screenplays for Dinner for Schmucks and The Ex so their comedy direction focuses on precisely timed jokes, pop culture references and existing character’s traits that we know from previous films. So this tends to be better for the adults so I guess it’s a win-win situation here for families.

Some of the best lines in the film come from the chemistry between Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan’s characters Jedediah and Octavius, and reports were that they were to have a spin-off film of their own before the unfortunate and untimely death of Robin Williams canned that plan. And speaking of the legendary great Williams, this would be his last onscreen role, and for many of us who are fans of his work it was hard to not shed a little tear and get emotional during his final scene with Stiller. Somehow the sage wise words from Teddy Roosevelt almost felt like Williams himself was parting ways with all of us. Out of our new faces Rebel Wilson does a fantastic job, particularly in her first back and forth scene with Stiller, which we found out some of it was ad-libbed and kept in the film because Levy really enjoyed their banter. Her British accent isn’t the greatest and I’m almost certain I heard her Aussie slip in there a couple of times, but I can overlook that considering how marginal her onscreen time was. Dan Stevens’ Sir Lancelot gets the most time out of our new faces, which is a bonus for us ladies since he’s quite the looker in his medieval knight outfit. As a newly awoken museum display his portrayal of a confused and disoriented but overly helpful Sir Lancelot is endearing but not everything is quite all it seems cracked up to be with this one. And lastly when it comes to screentime, there’s a really amazing cameo in the film which I refuse to spoil because it’s such a treat and is a really funny scene in the movie. When you see it, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 98 minutes

You can read Carina’s full review of the film here.

The Blu-Ray release of this film includes over an hour’s worth of special features.
It includes “Deleted/Extended Scenes”, “Fight At The Museum”, “Creating The Visual Effects”, “Audio Commentary with Shawn Levy”, “Gallery & Trailers” as well as the following shorts –

“Improv, Absurdity and Cracking Up – The comedy of Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb” – In short this is a gag reel, but it’s a bit more than that in that it’s done documentary style. Director Shawn Levy introduces us to some of the cast and how the results of improvisations by the likes of comedic stars Ricky Gervais and Ben Stiller are the scenes we see in the final cut.

“The Theory of Relativity” – One of the key scenes in the film is a sequence involving the lithograph painting “Relativity” by M.C. Escher, this short has Shawn Levy explain to us the process of making that scene come to life in the film. A combination of stunt work + green screen + visual effects all add up to a brilliant sequence in the film that took months of planning and was a challenge for all involved.

“Becoming Laaa” – Ben Stiller VS Ben Stiller, a fascinating look into how Ben Stiller acted against himself (with a little help from Shawn Levy occasionally standing in) to play both the character of Larry Daley and his doppelganger Neanderthal Laaa.

“A Day In The Afterlife” – A bizarre mockumentary that follows “Craig The Mummy” a nuisance extra who decides he’s a bit more than an extra and his antics on a day on the set of the film. See if you can pick the voice of Craig.

These shorts in particular are really worth watching, and if you’re a fan of behind the scenes stuff then these are all great added features on the Blu-Ray release. Considering that there’s over an hours worth of extras and the film itself is 98 minutes you may need to set aside extra time to watch them.

Features Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Night At The Musem 3 – Secret of the Tomb is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 9th April 2015.