When you’re on a good thing, stick to it. What began as a fun fantasy with surely no expectations of longevity has now had its third outing and will inevitably turn out to be a nice little earner for its backers.
It’s certainly not great art, but who can handle great art on Boxing Day? Amusing rather than funny, witty without being very insightful, this is a movie that – I might as well admit it up front – really hit the spot for me.
The headliners who made the prequels such larks are back, although in the case of Robin Williams (as Teddy Roosevelt) there is a terrible poignancy about seeing the genius at work for the last time. Indeed, the closing scene, in which he farewells Larry (Ben Stiller), is heavy with a sadness that could never have been envisaged during the shoot.
The franchise’s fresh idea is to take the exhibits that come to life after dark from New York to the British Museum, with the goal of restoring the powers of the ancient Egyptian tablet that their nocturnal animation depends on. It’s a pretty thin storyline, designed merely to allow for madcap chases, silly capers and a string of smart one-liners from Steve Coogan (Ocatvius, the camp Roman centurion) and Owen Wilson (a cowboy).
In keeping with the film’s steady-as-she-goes nature, some sequences have much more impact than others.
The limbless grey statues of ancient Greece blindly moving around has a creepy Twilight Zone feel about it, and when the pursuit of Lancelot (Dan Stevens) bursts into a West End theatre to interrupt Hugh Jackman playing himself in Camelot, the script manages to jump into the deliriously bizarre.
The CGI is terrific – Coogan and Wilson in Pompeii as Vesuvius blows shows how far the effects techs have come in recent times – Stiller, as always, excels as both the ‘little guy’, and Laaa the Neanderthal, and Rebel Wilson, wryly rueing her love of pizza, is a treat as the object of Laaa’s affection.
~ John Campbell