Night at the Museum goes to London. I'd assumed the plot would have been "New York loans series of artefacts to London" and then we'd get some interesting revelations when all the mummies in the British Museum's (in)famous Egyptian section came back to life. Instead, they chose to have the magic tablet begin to fail (which admittedly gave us a brilliant rampage scene at the fundraising gala 😂) and revealed that its creator, Ahkmenrah's father, was actually on display there. Actually, as a pivot it was quite fun and I thought the story held together just about well enough. The realisation that his family are in London was a solid justification for "ending" the plot, as Ahkmenrah chooses to stay there with the tablet once again, turning the main characters back into museum displays. Of course, there are still plenty of stories that could be told about London, but that would be open to a soft reboot with Rebel Wilson or another actor taking Stiller's lead. It was nice to get some more from Stiller's son as well, plus the brief exposition about what became of the original Night Guards after the first film. Overall, it's a neat cap to the trilogy that ties up any remaining loose ends.
But of course, the NatM movies aren't really about plot; they're about having a lot of creative fun with well known, beloved historical characters and locations, tied together by a great cast. In that sense, the third instalment is definitely the weakest, focusing more on plot and existing characters, but where it tried to be original it still sparkled with fun and humour. Lancelot was a great character, played brilliantly by Dan Stevens (Eurovision), even if the nose-melting gag went on a bit long. The miniature eruption of Vesuvius was fun, but the Asian sculptures and subsequent fight with the snake demon were just great set pieces, and the MC Escher painting was brilliant. Plus, the surprise Hugh Jackman cameo was very funny.
Speaking of the fight sequences, one element that stood out was how well choreographed the action was. It's a weird thing to say, but having Stiller and friends jumping through, over, and round obviously CG characters actually felt really fluid and realistic, with a few moments where I genuinely don't understand how they got the shot. Not something I thought I'd say, but there you go.
Where it suffers were in the small details. Ben Kingsley was underwhelming and a bit stilted, I still don't like the monkey character, and at this point you just have to accept that planes in this universe are all supersonic and can cross the Atlantic in under an hour. It also highlighted that the ending of the previous film didn't really work, relying on almost everyone in the world to just buy into a blatant lie that the NY Museum somehow had an infinite effects budget and access to animatronics that would put Hollywood out of business. And then there's the new caveman character. I could have sworn that this was a drawn-out Tom Cruise cameo for the entire movie and gave it a pass for getting someone of that calibre to take part, but apparently my eyes were deceived and it was just Ben Stiller again (I'm not the only one). Unfortunately, in that case: why?! The gag wore thin fast and the character mainly seemed to exist to allow other parts to simply talk exposition at him, which is just boring to watch.
Gripes aside, I still enjoyed the third NatM. The plot did just enough to keep you interested, the humour still have some solid moments, and the core cast remains as brilliant as ever. I don't need any more (particularly with Rebel Wilson, who was a solid meh in this role for me) but I'm happy to have gotten a final dose of museum magic before it wrapped up.