Quality: This score indicates entertainment value.
0 stars is horrible, while 5 stars is spectacular.
Political: This score addresses political messaging. 0 stars is aggressively anti-Conservative, while 5 stars is highly pro-Conservative. 3 stars is apolitical.
Moral/Religious (M/R): This score addresses moral and religious messaging.
0 stars is either intensely immoral or all-out, needless assault on Christianity. 5 stars is either great moral messaging or highly pro-Christian. 3 stars is inoffensive either way.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Quality – 1 star, Political – 3 stars, M/R – 1 star
In its first couple scenes, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” portends an interesting third act in the series. The magical tablet will be explained. The museum will offer new and exciting exhibits, complete with living galaxies performing overhead. Cool stuff! And familiar characters will go out in one last comedic hurrah, complete with Robin Williams offering his final words of wisdom and pose of inspiration (which, though brief, was the movie’s highlight).
This started pretty well, and could have stayed that way. But then, unfortunately, come several mistakes Hollywood often commits in final installments:
• Forcing Agenda – Two of the most beloved characters from this series are the miniature Roman Centurion Octavius (played by Steve Coogan) and his equally diminutive Cowboy partner, Jedediah (Owen Wilson). But now, surprise! Octavius is gay! And he’s attracted to Jedediah! And to other guys, too!
Sure, call me a prude. But gay characters work fine in movies where they matter to the plot—come to think of it, ALL characters work best this way. For instance, Greg Kinnear’s gay character works well in the Jack Nicholson gem, “As Good as it Gets.”
But a gay Octavius is just cringe-worthy, and the audience responded accordingly. As his comments became more revealing, the crowd fell into awkward silence. Children, parents, grandparents, teenagers—whether liberal or conservative, none seemed to enjoy having an agenda gratuitously shoved at them during a holiday movie.
It didn’t work. And the insulting part? Hollywood doesn’t care.
• Tedious Gags – Timing is everything in comedy. Too quick, and people don’t get it. Too slow, and the crucial element of surprise is lost. But if you really want to blow it, here’s how: Take familiar slapstick or dialogue—the kind your audience knows from previous films—and unleash it slowly, dragging out scenes with well-worn schtick for a couple extra minutes each. Now the audience is neither surprised nor amused. They’re not even bored, as they passed that point several lines ago. Now, they’re angry.
• Tired Performances – Ben Stiller, in the lead role as Larry Daley, looks far too serious during much of the show. In other supposedly funny moments, he seems irritated with the routines. The late Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt) also looks weary, though in his case it’s justified—this material was beneath his abilities. Ricky Gervais (Dr. McPhee) holds up well, but he’s given little to do. Rebel Wilson’s character (a British security guard named “Tilly”) is inserted for laughs, but the jokes fall flat or miss altogether. The only saving grace, temporarily, is Dan Stevens as “Sir Lancelot.” He’s funny for a while.
• Weak Problem Resolution – Okay, spoiler alert: The whole plot revolves around fixing a magical tablet that gives life to all the museum exhibits. Seems it’s decaying—quickly. I won’t bore you with the path by which our heroes find an answer, but here’s the upshot: All the tablet needed was moonlight. No, seriously, that’s it. Moonlight. Wow. That’s pretty hard to find in a series of movies where all the action occurs…AT NIGHT. That’s like saying, “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, but we can only save your goldfish by adding water.”
There’s a cheapness to this solution. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” would have rung hollow if Indiana Jones found Lost Arks on clearance at Walmart. “Rudy” wouldn’t have inspired us if, after all his failures making Notre Dame’s football team, he discovered the magic of steroids. Moonlight? Moonlight?! My goodness, read from a sacred text or something! Toss some virgins in a volcano! Have Obama issue an executive order! Do something!
Then again, I have a better solution: Do nothing. Don’t make this movie. Don’t roll out disinterested actors with unrelated agendas and agonizing comedy sketches. Just don’t do it, Hollywood.