NEW YORK (CNS) — All creatures great and small, including some long-dead humans, spring to life when the sun goes down in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (Fox), the third film in the popular franchise.

The original cast returns for some good-natured and, with one or two exceptions, family-friendly mayhem, directed once again by Shawn Levy, who helmed both “Night at the Museum” (2006) and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009).

The story line remains essentially the same: Larry (Ben Stiller), a guard at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, harnesses the power of an ancient Egyptian tablet, which makes the wax exhibits, stone statues and dinosaur skeletons around him miraculously come alive at nightfall.


But this go-round, there’s trouble on Central Park West. The tablet is decaying, and Larry must find a solution or risk losing his museum “family.”

It’s quite an extended clan: There’s President Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams, in his final film role); Egyptian pharaoh Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek); Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher); and Lewis and Clark’s Native American guide Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck).

Look sharp or you’ll step on miniature stars from two historical dioramas: rootin’-tootin’ cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Roman centurion Octavius (Steve Coogan).

There’s even a new caveman in town, a manic Neanderthal named Laaa, also played by Stiller.

Seeking a fix, Larry heads to the retirement home where former museum guards Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Reginald (Bill Cobbs) and Gus (Mickey Rooney, also in his final screen appearance), reside.

As a boy, Cecil was with the joint Anglo-American expedition which unearthed the tomb where the slab, and its secret, lay hidden. Head to London, he tells Larry, and look for an answer in the Egyptian collections of the British Museum.

And so Larry and his rebel teenage son, Nick (Skyler Gisondo), pack up the tablet and a few “family” members and cross the Atlantic.

Needless to say, Larry’s talisman casts its spell on the British Museum, where figures ranging from the centaurs on the Elgin Marbles to ferocious three-horned dinosaurs are soon on the rampage. But never fear — to the rescue rides Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens), legendary knight of the Round Table.

Lancelot is befuddled by these strange visitors but gamely joins the crusade to restore the tablet. The answer lies with Ahkmenrah’s father, Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), pharaoh of the Nile, who — as a preliminary — commands all present to, “Kiss my staff!”

If it sounds silly, it is. Despite the seemingly requisite toilet humor provided by a monkey named Crystal, however, and some outsized dino behavior that might intimidate tots, overall, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” offers viewers good-natured and amiable fun.

The film contains some intense action sequences, childish scatological humor and mild innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.


McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.