Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb, film review: Robin Williams appears subdued in this otherwise uproarious movie

(PG) Shawn Levy, 97 mins, starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley

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The Independent Culture

London is calling in the latest (and perhaps final) installment of the good natured comedy franchise. The Natural History Museum featured prominently in Paddington but the British Museum is even more to the fore here.

The appearances of Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney (who have both since died) adds extra poignance to a film that pretty much follows the contours of its predecessors. Williams is again Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, or at least a wax effigy of him brought to life. He is relatively subdued and understated by his own standards but still an effective comic presence. Rooney, meanwhile, is enjoyably obnoxious in his cameo as the retired night guard.

The film begins in uproarious fashion when security guard turned curator Larry (Stiller) organises a special effects show at the Museum of Natural History involving the characters and stuffed animals from the museum. They run amok, terrifying the wealthy patrons. The cause for this bad behaviour is the corrosion of an ancient Egyptian tablet that seems to function like a glorified PS4 controller. Larry heads off to the British Museum with all his pals in tow to sort matters out and to save the job of museum curator Dr McPhee (Ricky Gervais.)

The plotting is on the feeble side but the action and comic set-pieces are staged with plenty of flair. We see mini-cowboy Jed (Owen Wilson) and his equally diminutive best friend, the Roman centurion toy Octavius (Steve Coogan) in extreme situations that rekindle memories of 1970s disaster movies. One moment they are fleeing molten lava in Pompeii. The next, they’re disappearing down the ventilator shafts of the museum. Two sequences in particular stick out - a very funny interlude in which Larry pursues the chivalric but dastardly Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) into the theatre where Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve are starring in a production of Camelot and a visually ingenious, Dr Caligari-style fight sequence that takes place inside artist M.C. Escher’s surrealistic print, Relativity.

Alongside these flashes of real inventiveness, all the business with animated dinosaurs and incontinent capuchin monkeys seems a perfunctory. The father-son theme also becomes a little tiresome (Stiller is trying to persuade his teenage kid to go to college.) At least, the film shows off its London locations to best effect. It is also genial and funny enough to get away with its lazier moments.

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