Night at the Museum is among the most beloved and fun film franchises of the 21st century. With an original premise and three reasonably successful films, it has a sizable fan base. So, an animated sequel has a legacy to live up to, even if it is not as big as a Shrek or Rush Hour. Sadly, Kahmunrah Rises Again falls short of the standards set by the franchise so far. In every department, whether it is the comedy, performance, or even the story, it lags behind its predecessors. Even if one does not compare, as a standalone film too, this animated feature is more a miss than a hit. Also read: Night at the Museum 3 review: It has nothing new to offer
Night at the Museum films have a simple premise. An ancient Egyptian tablet at the Museum of Natural History in New York brings all the exhibits to life every night. The night guard, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) faces a new challenge every film and a new setting too as he tries to stop the world from ending. Kahmunrah Rises Again brings in Larry’s son Nick as the new night guard in a departure from the live-action trilogy. Larry is present in a cameo but he is voiced by Zachary Levi and not Ben. The trouble begins there and it all goes downhill thereon.
As an animated feature, Kahmunrah Rises Again has the freedom to be sillier and more adventurous in its scope. It begins earnestly by setting it as a coming-of-age story for a teenager who is uncertain about his place and talents. It evokes nostalgia as it brings back familiar characters like Teddy Roosevelt, Sacajawea, and the fun duo of Octavius and Jedediah. But the nostalgia is short-lived. However talented the voice actors are here, they do make you miss the original cast, which hampers the connection with the story a bit.
The story itself is straightforward but not fun enough. The previous three films had stakes that were not as high but were infinite times more thrilling and funny. The jokes here don’t land, the tension is never tight enough, and the character development is almost non-existent. The 77-minute film (thank God for the short runtime) elicited a total of five chuckles and one laugh from me. Trust me, I kept count.
The animation is good, which is a saving grace. And the film may appeal to kids and pre-teens, who I believe are the target audience for it. There is certain finesse in the character design and the colour palette is appealing too. However, the film lacks the scale of the franchise in general. Everything seems shrunken, toned down, and shortened. This essentially means the film feels rushed at times with the plot in a hurry to reach its conclusion.
The voice actors have done a fine job, led by Joshua Bassett, who voices Nick. Akmal Saleh, the voice of Seth, is a delight as is Gillian Jacobs, who plays Nick’s mom and Larry’s ex-wife. And yet, there is a Ben Stiller-sized hole in the film. His charm and screen presence made the original films. That was enhanced further by the comic timing of some of the finest actors of this generation–from Robin Williams and Owen Wilson to Hank Azaria and Amy Adams. That magic combination is absent here, which means the film never rises above a generic animated comedy. Even though it had so much more potential.
Night at the Museum Kahmunrah Rises Again
Director: Matt Danier
Cast: Joshua Bassett, Alice Isaaz, Gillian Jacobs, Joseph Kamal, Zachary Levi, Thomas Lennon, Akmal Saleh, Kieran Sequoia, Jack Whitehall, Steve Zahn, and Jamie Demetriou.