Synopsis – Nick Daley hesitates becoming a museum nightwatchman and Kahmunrah returns to conquer the world.
My Take – Released in 2006, the Shawn Levy directed Night at the Museum was a unique fantasy family comedy that saw a night guard at the American Museum of Natural History forced to come to grips with a magical spell that brought the objects in the museum to life every night.
Backed by a stellar cast, solid visual effects, and a warm sense of humor, the film was not only a huge box office success, but also birthed a franchise, which saw the release of two consecutive sequels, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014). However, with diminishing returns and the passing of franchise mainstay, the legendary Robin Williams, it seemed like the series was going to stay dormant until someone came knocking, saying reboot.
But with Disney now in control of 20th Century Studios bag of franchises, a new entry is out on Disney+, only this time in animated form. And though series director Shawn Levy has retained an executive producer credit, it sees a whole new cast and production team attached, with Matt Danner (Legend of the Three Caballeros, Muppet Babies) taking over the directorial reigns.
With the resulting film being a modest entertainer that carries on the magic of the original trilogy while opening doors into a new era for its iconic characters. Writers Ray DeLaurentis and William Schifrin clearly seem to be having fun throwing various obstacles at the familiar characters, while leaving no time to breathe between them.
Sure, running for just 77 minutes it can all feel a bit rushed, but director Danner is clear about giving the target demographic what they want, and while the feature is no epic, it at-least loses the obvious fatigue that made ‘Secret of the Tomb’ such a forgettable entrant. Making it the kind of film that doesn’t offer much nor does it ask for much, but just about meets its expectations.
The story this time around follows Nick Daley (voiced by Joshua Bassett), teenage son of Larry (voiced by Zachary Levi), who due to a temporary position in Japan’s History Museum, leaves Nick in his position as the new night guard at the Museum of Natural History. Luckily, Nick is familiar with the museum’s ancient tablet that brings all the exhibits to life when the sun goes down, but must face his fears of the dark and general social awkwardness to do his job.
However, when Nick fails at this first task of locking the storage room, due to his encounter of all the creepy things downstairs, it allows Egyptian Pharaoh Kahmunrah (voiced by Joseph Kamal), to break free once again and steal the tablet to once again attempt to open the doors to the Underworld to rule over the living.
With only time left until the sun rises, Nick joins forces the museum display cast of Teddy Roosevelt (voiced by Thomas Lennon), Attila the Hun (voiced by Alexander Salamat), Sacagawea (voiced by Kieran Sequoia), Laaa (voiced by Zachary Levi), Octavius (voiced by Jack Whitehall), Jedediah (voiced by Steve Zahn), Dexter (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) and Joan of Arc (voiced by Alice Isaaz) to stop him and Seth (voiced by Akmal Saleh), the God of Chaos.
Surprisingly not much has changed in the ‘Night in the Museum’ world. Simply told, it’s a joy seeing this group of characters again, they all feel heartwarming and familiar, like seeing an old friend after such a long time. Plus, with a shortened run time, the film never overstays its welcome and knows it’s only here for a good time and not much else, so no scene ever feels stretched out or meandering. The characters still remain likable and Joan of Arc, the new character, is sure to be a hit with fans of the franchise as she makes for a welcome addition to the museum gang.
The humor, however, is where the film falters. For every chuckle or laugh, there is a groan. About half the jokes work, they’re clever and witty and delivered with a lot of energy from both the voice actors and the animators, but the other half falls flat, instead relying on predictable punchlines and overdone running gags.
The film makes the transition to animation well from an aesthetic standpoint. More in tandem with the animation style really harkens back to the golden age of the Disney Channel, painted with primary colors and full-figured characters who could never be mistaken for anything resembling real life, which makes sense when you consider that director Danner worked on beloved animated series from that same era of television. Though it is budget animation, director Danner manages to bring some fluid style of the endeavor, and he embraces a different level of screen action, doing more with the fantasy aspects of the tale.
And while the adventure is enjoyable, it’s also forgettable, you’re not going to remember this one the same way you remember the first two films. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward story with not a lot of big events happening, making it more of a time filler rather than a must-watch offering.
The new voice cast comprising of Zachary Levi, Joshua Bassett, Thomas Lennon, Steve Zahn, Jack Whitehall, Gillian Jacobs, Joseph Kamal, Jamie Demetriou, Alexander Salamat, Kieran Sequoia, Dee Bradley Baker, Alice Isaaz, Kelemete Misipeka and Akmal Saleh are all good and do the best they can as replacements. On the whole, ‘Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again’ is a modestly entertaining animated adventure that delivers a fun, short trip for fans of the franchise.
Directed – Matt Danner
Rated – PG
Run Time – 77 minutes