In fact, the paper-thin yawner of a plot might be summed up thusly: Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and his smart-ass teenaged son (Skyler Gisondo) travel to England and run around the British Museum, trying to restore the Tablet of Ahkmenrah before it disintegrates, while the museum figurines from the previous films… just kind of follow them around in a group. Oh, and Ben Kingsley shows up for a few minutes to collect a pay cheque.
That’s honestly what the film felt like as it unspooled, with fan favorites such as Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and the pint-sized pair of Jed (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan) relegated to being tag-alongs on a decidedly dull adventure.
The problems are many. The film lacks a female lead, for starters. #1 had Carla Gugino, #2 had Amy Adams as plucky Amelia Earhart, but #3 only has Rebel Wilson, who’s admittedly great but who has little more than a handful of brief scenes. As a result, one of the familiar narrative layers (romance for Larry) is stripped away this go-‘round, replaced with tedious parental angst over whether Larry’s son will go to college. Wow. What fun.
Also stripped away is any kind of sense of surprise and wonder. Everything in Secret… is something we’ve seen before, as though the filmmakers ran out of new rabbits to pull out of the same hat. The first film introduced the concept of a museum coming to life (WHAT?!), the second film took it a step further by having paintings come to life (SO COOL!), but this one has nothing new to add.
Humor – or at least, stuff that goes beyond “and then the monkey PEES on them AGAIN!” – is also in short supply in installment #3. The proceedings are flat and unfunny, and it’s as though the characters have all been sedated. Only Ricky Gervais’s beleaguered museum president and Dan Stevens’ dopey Lancelot earned genuine laughs from me. To be fair, it’s hard to follow up Hank Azaria’s hysterically insecure hothead Kahmunrah, who – along with Adams – helped Smithsonian soar. Instead, here, we get Larry’s son trying (and failing) to be as deadpan and funny as his dad, while Williams, Wilson and Coogan are left woefully underused.
Perhaps most disappointing of all is that what little heart the film possesses comes not from anything actually happening onscreen, but from the fact that the audience knows Robin Williams is no longer here, thereby making his character’s parting comments all the more poignant. Overall, the entire project seems like a blatant cash grab, rather than something that sprung to life because someone somewhere wrote an amazing cinematic story that demanded to be told.
Here, let me save you the cost of admission and tell you the Secret of the Tomb: it’s just not very good.
Though this is one of those cases where all the bell-and-whistle extras won’t make us like a movie, there are still a few extra fun ones on the Blu-ray. Skip the usual hijinks (where the cast crack themselves up), the extra scenes, and the tot-aimed “A Day in the Afterlife”, and go straight to “The Theory of Relativity” which details how they did the dimension-bending M.C. Escher scene, as well as the look at the film’s visual effects. Otherwise, there is a piece about filming at the British Museum (let’s hope this stinky film doesn’t deter people from visiting that fantastic place), “Becoming Laaa” about Ben Stiller’s evil twin in the film, a gallery, trailers, and audio commentary by director Shawn Levy.