We review this week’s new cinema releases, including NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB and DUMB & DUMBER TO…
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (USA/UK/PG/97mins)
Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Mickey Rooney, Ben Kingsley, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rami Malek, Rachael Harris, Dan Stevens, Rebel Wilson, Rami Malek.
THE PLOT: The magic tablet that brings the inhabitants of New York’s Natural History Museum is becoming corroded and weak, so Larry (Ben Stiller) must take Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) to London to find out the history of the ancient magic from his parents. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Jed (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan) and the gang tag along for the ride, and they make friends with Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) along the way.
THE VERDICT: When I cast an eye back over the favourite movies of my childhood – BACK TO THE FUTURE, INDIANA JONES, THE GOONIES – they are invariably ones filled with magic, adventure and a little chaos. It feels like this ‘magic’ formula has been missing from kids’ movies of late, but NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB has come along just on time to save the day.
Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Crystal the monkey and Owen Wilson are all back, along with Ricky Gervais and newcomers to the franchise Rebel Wilson and Dan Stevens. As always, this Night at the Museum film is one that lives and dies with the ensemble, but there are some outstanding performances therein. The chemistry between Coogan and Owen Wilson is fantastic, and they bounce off one another incredibly well, there is tons of adventure and of course, some incredibly touching moments including the late, great Robin Williams. Dan Stevens obviously has a whale of a time as the over the top romantic hero Sir Lancelot, and Rebel Wilson brings her awkward brand of humour to the whole affair. There are also some great cameos, including ones from Ben Kingsley and Hugh Jackman.
The script, to be fair, is exceedingly simple, but then this is the case with the best adventure movies aimed at kids. The clever concept – which still feels as though it was stolen from TOY STORY – is still one of the best parts of the film, and is sure to get kids interested in visiting museums. As well as this, the concept gives rise to plenty of comedy surrounding characters finding themselves in a time they don’t understand, and being faced with mythical and dangerous beasts.
Director Shawn Levy has finally captured the right kind of essence for the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM trilogy; mixing sentiment with adventure, magic with friendship and over the top characters with cynical ones. There are some fantastic set pieces – including one inspired by MC Escher – although at times it feels as though the movie is moving from one action sequence to another, story bedamned. Oh, and the last five minutes is complete unnecessary and takes a bit of the shine off the movie as a whole.
In all though, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB is by far the best film in the franchise, and is filled with that spark of wonder that was so well done in the 1980s. Dan Stevens shines, Robin Williams brings the sentiment and the entire affair is, for the most part, fun and magical. That is, of course, if you can wipe the last five minutes from your memory.
Review by Brogen Hayes
DUMB & DUMBER TO (USA/15A/109mins)
Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Steve Tom, Don Lake, Patricia French, Bill Murray.
THE PLOT: It’s been twenty years since we last saw sweet knuckleheads Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels), and, as anyone who has even walked past the trailer will know, the former has been faking a coma for pretty much all of that time. Which is pretty much the best gag in the movie. After that, Lloyd and Harry are soon on the road again, the latter informing the former that unless he gets a new kidney soon, the double act will be well and truly buried. And so they hit the road, in the hope of tracking down Harry’s old flame, and the child he never knew he had. Cue some dead-in-the-water puns, such as “She’s the fruit of your loom, Harry!”.
THE VERDICT: Considering just how truly wonderful those three early Farrelly brothers films were – 1994’s DUMB & DUMBER, 1996’s KINGPIN and 1998’s THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY – it’s been pretty painful to see their slow, steady, increasingly unfunny decline. What was beautifully twisted and outrageously funny suddenly just came across as gross, as the brothers tried to wring laughs from such unfunny subjects as incest (Say It Isn’t So), schizophrenia (ME, MYSELF & IRENE), obesity (SHALLOW HAL), conjoined twins (STUCK ON YOU), the Special Olympics (THE RINGER) and good ol’ infidelity (HALL PASS). Even when it came to the safer and more commercially sound remake, the Farrellys found themselves falling short, with 2007’s return-to-form – and sequel-of-sorts to MARY – THE HEARTBREAK KID and 2012’s THE THREE STOOGES failing to turn a profit, or a corner, for the fading Farrellys.
So, it’s not all that surprising that the brothers have returned to their breakthrough debut, hoping to find that reignite that early creative, and commercial, spark. That DUMB & DUMBER TO is a far superior film to 2003’s much-derided prequel DUMB & DUMBERBER: WHEN HARRY MET LLOYD is hardly surprising. That Dumb & Dumber To is far inferior to the 1994 original is also undeniable though, the Farrellys reunion with Carrey and Daniels being, initially at least, a pale carbon copy of their comic masterpiece. The plot set-up, the characters and even the soundtrack is largely the same – which leaves you with the need for Very Funny Gags. Of which there are about 8 here. We’re still firmly in Marx/Zucker brothers territory, and there are times when Carrey (also in desperate need of a hit, and a hug) and Daniels are clearly enjoying themselves, but DUMB & DUMBER TO ultimately feels like a 20-years-later sequel, where the gleeful shock of the new has long gone.
Revire by Paul Byrne