When was the last time a live-action film got an animated sequel? I may be wrong, but I remember the days when Kangaroo Jack came out and Warner Bros. released a direct-to-video animated sequel titled Kangaroo Jack: G’Day U.S.A.! It was somehow worse than the universally panned live-action film. Could you imagine that, eighteen years later, we would get Night at the Museum‘s version of G’Day U.S.A.?
There are very few, if any, redeeming qualities in Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again, allegedly set after Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. But there are so many continuity errors throughout its brisk (but painful) 77-minute runtime that you can’t help but think that none of the filmmakers watched the trilogy and cared enough to at least establish a sense of cohesion between the animated sequel and the live-action films.
For instance, the last time we saw Nick Daley (Skyler Gisondo), his father, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), hoped he would attend college but wanted to take a gap year as a DJ first. In this follow-up to Secret of the Tomb, Nick (Rina stans, where you at because he’s voiced by Joshua Bassett) is a high-school student looking for a summer job! Or how about Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), who knew the museum’s secret during the ending of Secret of the Tomb? In this film (voiced by Jamie Demetriou), he has no idea that the tablet of Akhmenrah is bringing the museum’s wax figures to life. Did they send the men in black in between the events of the third and fourth films to wipe the characters’ memories? Is that what happened?
That seems to be the only plausible explanation for the mess the film creates in terms of continuity. It’s not that big of an effort to watch what came before in preparation to “reboot” the franchise, especially if it’s set after the events of a sequel that did happen and introduced new characters. Anyway, in this iteration of the franchise, Nick becomes the new night guard at the National Museum of History, whilst Larry (Zachary Levi) starts working at the Tokyo Museum (didn’t he give up his guard post at the end of Secret of the Tomb? Oh, well…) for the summer.
The film paints Nick as a major screw-up who keeps pulling out at every opportunity he gets and predictably screws up his first night at the museum (ha!) by not locking the basement door, which causes a box featuring Kahmunrah (Joseph Kamal) to open. The Egyptian God aims for world domination, and so it’s now up to Nick and the main characters of the previous films, Teddy Roosevelt (Thomas Lennon), Octavius (Jack Whitehall), Jedediah (Steve Zahn), Sacagawea (Kieran Sequoia), Laaa (Zachary Levi), Attila the Hun (Alexander Salamat) and newcomer Joan of Arc (Alice Isaaz) to stop him from destroying the world.
Infants may enjoy Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again as a distraction while their parents work from home and don’t want to be bothered, but that’s it. There’s no excitement or life in any of the film’s badly animated frames or a sense of wonder as they go to Egypt and enter a temple, but it’s all predictable. Nick is insecure but won’t be anymore after defeating an Egyptian God and saving the world, right? Kahmunrah is back, and we all know that his plan will somehow fail and that everything will work out in the end. There’s no element of surprise, or at least drama, that keeps the viewers engaged, unlike the previous two installments that tried to spice things up with their story and even did a massive fakeout during the climax of Secret of the Tomb that made me believe, at the time, that it was truly the end of the magic.
Here’s hoping that Kahmunrah Rises Again will be the end of the Night at the Museum franchise. There’s no reason for it to continue unless it gets remade into a live-action form via a film or television series. The animation is lifeless and unengaging. There isn’t a single exciting frame coming out of its 2D animated sequences, and nothing to justify why this sequel is animated other than saving millions of dollars. Bob Chapek seemed to think that animation is solely for kids, and it didn’t matter if it was quality animated work, but animation is for everyone. And when you have cheaply constructed frames like the ones found in Kahmunrah Rises Again, not even kids could excite themselves at the prospect of seeing the museum wax figures come to life again because it was far more magical in live-action form.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian had many exciting images for kids to bask in and incredible energy at every turn. Kahmunrah Rises Again lacks the energy and passion from the voice cast to make the predictable material work. There were a couple of funny jokes here and there, but it will not be a film I will remember in a day. And as much as Disney wants to use previously established 20th Century Fox IP to make more content, there needs to be a reason beyond creating stuff that is only designed to be consumed and forgotten, especially after The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, which is still the worst animated film of the year.
Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is now available to stream on Disney+.