Eight years ago, New York's Natural History Museum came to life at night in Night at the Museum. Two movies after, the gang of Larry and his museum characters come to life and this time, problems arise when they start malfunctioning. The magic that keeps them alive is waning and Larry’s friends are now in danger. How to save them? The answer is a trip to the British Museum in London!
Growing up, letting go
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and his son (Skyler Gisondo) team up with New York's Natural History Museum staples to save the night, so to speak. The father-and-son relationship has always been at the heart of the films, along with the innovative use of special effects that bring the magic to life on screen. For the third installment, Larry is also trying to come to terms with a teenage son seeking his independence
“We are about five years after the last one, which is a big change in terms of Larry’s relationship with his son. Nicky is a teenager now and he’s going off to school,” says Stiller.
Screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman recall director Shawn Levy saying: “We want this to be the culmination of the themes of the earlier two films. We want to make it about saying goodbye and moving on. Larry’s son, Nick, is getting older and wants new freedoms and Larry has to let go. And we tried to echo that throughout the movie.”
The father-son dynamic is also a key element with several other characters: Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) works through his relationship with his father (played by Ben Kingsley); Nick develops a surrogate father relationship with Lancelot (Dan Stevens); and Teddy (the late Robin Williams) is very much a father figure to Larry. Even a new character, the caveman Laaa, calls Larry “dada.”
“That’s the fun thing, when you explore those kinds of relationships,” says Guion. “What are their serious, emotional, heartwarming parts, and what are the difficult, embarrassing and fun parts?”
This movie is about the difficulty of accepting change and of letting go of those we love. So for Larry, this applies to his teenage son, who may be going away to college or to the world beyond; it applies to the museum creatures that are at risk and may lose their magic; and it applies, possibly, to the job that has defined Larry Daley for all these years.
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Why there's a third film
Ben Stiller recalls his reaction to reading the script for the first Night at the Museum. “It appealed to the kid in me,” he explains. “What happens when the museum closes at night? What would happen if everything came to life? I thought that the answers would be a really cool movie to see.” In terms of the decision to make a third film, he says, “People have a connection with the characters, and when the idea came up about everything possibly ending, and there being a finite amount of time these creatures can actually come to life, and how people deal with that, it felt like a story you wouldn’t quite expect to see. I really liked that idea.
“I love what these movies are about,” Stiller continues. “They have become a part of our culture. They’ve affected how people go to a museum and view the museum exhibits. It’s really fun to go to a museum and see that they have a night program. I have a lot of people – adults – who tell me, ‘I had a sleepover at the museum with my kids.’ And I’ll say, ‘Great. Did anything come to life?’”
Watch the trailer:
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb opens January 8 in cinemas from 20th Century Fox.