Here’s a secret: The first two were better

“The questions no one asked sequel,” wherein a film series reaches into its background to find inspiration – or Secret of the Tomb. In the case of Night of the Museum, the questions concern the magic tablet which brings the displays to life. The powers, the archaeological find, and its source of energy are central to the storytelling. But, we didn’t need to know.

In fact, the fanciful illusion is now gone. So is the magic. Lost is the fairy tale. Night at the Museum is no longer pushed forward by fantasy and mystique. Instead, the series is caught in a creative trap and retreats backwards in order to find something worth latching onto. In the process comes an over saturation of exposition.

If this is the final Night at the Museum, so be it. The canon-fied information is now out there. However, it does not save Secret of the Tomb from itself. Ben Stiller returns, caught in a sideways narrative often – literally – crossing unnecessary pathways before completely losing itself miles from the museum. How anti-climactic.

Two new writers are called in for screen play work, Dinner for Schmucks duo Michael Handelman and Dave Guion. While trying to build a reasonable single dad odyssey, the script drifts off into plain references, attempting to convince an audience 2001 flashbacks are somehow not overdone.

The move to a new locale only makes the film feel jet lagged.

Missing is the panache and the energy, although there is no loss of visual effects or enthusiasm. Certainly, the creativeness of a brawl inside of an M.C. Escher painting is memorable. But, a move to the British Museum is of limited consequence outside of casting Rebel Wilson to do an accent. The move to a new locale only makes the film feel jet lagged. New characters could have fit without the link to foreign soil. Location work is spoiled by tired shots of Tower Bridge, London Eye, and Big Ben without any sense of adventuring beyond.

Much of the film is spent forcing itself into the museum, and once there, it appears baffled as to what to do. Off the crew goes to search for missing characters in complete rejection of their goal for a sizable chunk of the feature. So little of the earnestness for the idea remains. It’s tired. It’s worn. And if it so happens this is the final Night at the Museum, it’s time. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Can't even tell the difference @ 8:34

While only pieces of the previous films were completed digitally, Secret of the Tomb is all-in via the Red One. Results are generally positive. While certain visual effect scenes are abundantly noisy (only a few), images are typically precise and clean. Clarity is appreciable.

Museum interiors are darker than before. It IS at night, so this makes sense yet robs a bit of potential contrast. Black levels are deep, while the rest seems hindered by a case of overcast. Secret of the Tomb lacks a touch of vibrancy, also appropriate in consideration of the film’s overall lack of energy.

A savior is waiting in terms of color. While a push for a restrained orange and teal appearance has taken a bit of the life, primaries remain strong. Their density, usually held by the way of costumes, are impressive. Flesh tones carry the orange push throughout.

All of this aside, it is fidelity which makes this disc a total standout. Close-ups are certainly excellent, yet at distance, the disc has new life. Sir Lancelot’s armor is exquisitely done, while the gold garb covering Ben Kingsley is meticulous. Detail is utterly flawless. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Secret of the Tomb puts a smile on early as viewers are caught inside of a shipping crate. As it’s sealed, a hammer pounds nails into the four corners of the box. Each knock comes from a specific corner speaker. Cheesy, but clever. Inside of Escher’s work, voices being to travel, aiding the effect of this scene’s unreal gravity.

The rest is often standard. Unremarkable, really. A triceratops stomps around in the LFE for some fun and a battle with an ancient stone snake is lively, if mostly to expectation. Secret of the Tomb is barely adventurous sonically. Mixing work is fine and balance is perfect. In terms of entertainment value, this is on the middling end of blockbuster 7.1 mixes – but still good. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Director Shawn Levy goes solo for a commentary, and it’s a shame someone like Stiller doesn’t join in. Seven deleted scenes play host to a few moments worth seeing.

From here, the disc is made up of featurettes with the exception of a gallery. Surprisingly, these are solidly made pieces. Improv, Absurdity, and Cracking Up probably frustrates the writers as actors go off script, but given the cast, all of their unique touches are fun. There are plenty clips mixed in with short interviews, including Ricky Gervais’ one-of-a-kind laugh.

Theory of Relativity focuses on the M.C. Escher sequence from concept to green screen to digital. This one is detailed. Becoming Laaa speaks with Stiller about playing himself twice on screen with A Day in the Afterlife up next, slightly funny but the most skippable as Rami Malek stays in-character to discuss the part.

The Home of History reveals the location shoot inside of the British Museum and the challenges which followed. Fight as the Museum is about the snake fight, with Creating Visual Effects up last, a three minute reel of progress shots. In total, this all comes to over an hour. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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