Night At The Museum The Secret of the Tomb •
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
December 25, 2014
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (**) PG
The most emotionally satisfying moments in the latest—and supposedly final—installment of the Night of the Museum franchise come at the end of the picture but ironically it isn’t what’s scripted that gives those moments their emotional heft. It’s the untimely passing of Robin Williams, whose monologue in the guise of his Teddy Roosevelt character at the end of the film contains an added poignancy that could not have been calculated when the film was shot. This scene is indeed a fitting tribute to the late actor’s talents and give the film one of its few honest moments. Too bad there aren’t more of them during the rest of the film.
In terms of wrapping things up, it’s clear that this third excursion into Night of the Museum territory is aiming for the feel of something along the lines of Toy Story 3. Instead the whole endeavor comes across as tired and forced.
Sure the effects are great and all, and the film does have a few energetic moments but did the writers really have to shoehorn a forced subplot involving the Ben Stiller character’s son in the film attempting to decide whether to go to college or take a year off and DJ abroad while his dad lectures him on the perils of skipping a higher education?
When audiences line up for the latest Museum film I’m not sure that a lecture is what they’re signing up for but it’s what they’re going to get, regardless.
Ben Stiller and the greatly mourned Robin Williams in Museum
The story this time around has museum guard, Larry (Stiller, looking quite bored), being entrusted with resuscitating the powers of the ancient Egyptian tablet whose failing powers may prevent the Museum exhibits from coming to life at night as they’ve done in the past. The usual gang of exhibits from previous installments in the franchise show up in various capacities. These include the Roman soldiers (Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson), the aforementioned Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher) and Akmenrah (Rami Malek). New additions to the series include Stiller doing double duty as a Neanderthal and Ben Kingsley as Akmenrah’s father who provides Larry with some guidance on how to save the day. There’s also a Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) thrown into the mix and Rebel Wilson essentially playing the same character she’s played way too many times before, i.e., Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect. And there’s at least one great cameo by a famed song and dance man playing himself that really helps the film quite a bit when it hits a stretch of the doldrums.
Several veteran actors who appeared in earlier installments (Bill Cobb and Dick Van Dyke) get a token appearance as does Mickey Rooney, whose last film this also was. I think I would have preferred seeing more of them in the film, than the monkey who urinates not once but twice. But then again, that’s just me.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (**)
Now that Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is complete, we can definitely say what’s really been known all along. Namely, that there’s simply no reason for a book as thin as The Hobbit to have been stretched into three films. Now that it’s all said and done, the truth is more painfully obvious than ever.
The first film in the series was a chore to get through, filled with unnecessary characters and incidents that served no purpose in moving the narrative forward and also peopled with painfully unfunny attempts at comic relief. The second and best film in this trilogy somewhat redeemed things due to its focus and narrative drive, although the film ended on a cliffhanger note, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the conclusion of the second Back to the Future film some twenty-five years ago.
And now we have the third and final installment in Mr. Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which instead of ending on a high note, falls back into the unnecessarily padded feel of that initial installment in the series.
Luke Evans and Orlando Bloom in The Battle...
The cliffhanger that ended the last Hobbit chapter is resolved within the first half hour and once that happens the film devolves into a series of interminable battle scenes—hence the film’s title—that go on for the majority of the film’s final eighty minutes. And then once the battle is over and done and the film’s story has clearly reached its logical conclusion, Jackson and his cinematic co-conspirators insist on stretching things out even further for another seemingly interminable fifteen minutes or so. By the time the credits rolled, I was more than ready to get this thing over and done.
In the film’s opening scenes, we pick up where we left off with the dragon Smaug laying waste to the lake town of Esgaroth. The effects here are some of the best in the film’s series. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t really feel in synch with the rest of the film. Once Smaug has been laid to rest, the quest as to who will take over the lonely mountain takes center stage in the film. This sets us up for the battle of the five armies which takes up the latter half of the film and, unfortunately, grows more tedious as the pic heads toward the finish line.
The special effects, as always, are top notch and there’s enough action, via the film’s battle scenes, to satisfy those craving an action fix. Unfortunately, battle scenes do not a story make. Too bad, The Hobbit series ends not with a bang but with a whimper.
Both of these films are playing all around this area.
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