Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again (Review) – An Okay Animated Reboot

DIRECTOR: Matt Danner

CAST: Joshua Bassett, Thomas Lennon, Joseph Kamal, Akmal Saleh, Steve Zahn, Jack Whitehall, Kieran Sequoia, Alice Isaaz, Jamie Demetriou, Zachary Levi, Gillian Jacobs, Alexander Salamat, Shelby Simmons, Lidia Porto, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Bowen Yang, Chris Parnell, Kelemete Misipeka, Christie Bahna, Zeeko Zaki, Jonathan Roumie, Dee Bradley Baker

RUNNING TIME: 80 mins

CERTIFICATE: PG

BASICALLY…: Nick Daley (Bassett) becomes a night guard at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits magically come to life…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Is Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again the latest in a long line of 20th Century Studios (née Fox) properties that have been given the low-budget reboot treatment on Disney+? Yes, it is – but unlike The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, and especially unlike Home Sweet Home Alone, this is a franchise reboot that actually makes a fair amount of sense.

While the original run of live-action Night at the Museum films were respectable box office hits, they did prove to be costly with all of its effects and big-name actors, which is much trickier to pull off in today’s cost-effective environment, even with a proven franchise brand like this one (plus, any new live-action movie would have to do without the late Robin Williams, which would have been immensely sad). However, by rejuvenating itself as a 2D-animated film with not nearly as many famous performers in the main roles, it opens up plenty of new creative possibilities whilst still keeping the overall financial risk at a fair minimum, which is just as much a win for Disney as it is for the (mostly young) audience who can watch and enjoy this new rendition perfectly fine.

The film is set in the same continuity as the previous live-action films, with Larry Daley (now voiced by Zachary Levi, stepping in for Ben Stiller) leaving his long-running post as the night watchman of the New York Museum of Natural History – where the exhibits come to life every night due to a magical tablet – to take up a new job in Tokyo. Larry’s exhibit friends, including Teddy Roosevelt (Thomas Lennon, filling in the late Robin Williams’s role), Sacagawea (Kieran Sequoia) and Atilla the Hun (Alexander Salamat), persuade him to recruit his teenage son Nick (Joshua Bassett) to be the museum’s new security guard, but young Nick is suffering from confidence issues and frequently doubts himself and his aspiring DJ talents. Sure enough, on his first night in the new position, Nick ends up unleashing the Ancient Egyptian foe Kahmunrah (Joseph Kamal) from the museum basement, and when he takes off with the magical tablet, intending to summon an army of the dead and take over the world, it’s up to Nick and his museum friends to save the day.

Much more so than the live-action films, Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is primarily aimed at younger children, which does mean that is a fair amount of juvenile humour laced in with exaggerated slapstick that they will undoubtedly enjoy more than most adults. There are lame puns, obvious punchlines, and – yes – the odd fart joke here and there, so don’t expect to be won over if you’re not a fan of any of that. However, it isn’t as though the other movies were above that kind of humour to begin with, and the way in which the straightforward story is presented here, with animation that is very fast-paced and more flexible than you’d get with live-action performers, does oddly make it feel consistent enough to at the very least give itself more of an identity. Obviously, none of that will matter to most kids, who can get a good enough giggle out of all the silly antics, and while the majority of adults won’t see this as a laugh-riot, they’ll at least respect the energy that has gone into a lot of these gags.

It is also a surprisingly endearing film, with a likeable cast of characters who do give genuine support to our main protagonist, who can at times seem like a consistently whiny sod but is at least one who you can empathise with to a point. Sure, these aren’t the type of characters that are necessarily fleshed out in a movie like this, but you do get to know and like enough about them to still want to root for them, and for the most part it’s fun going on an adventure with all of them working alongside each other (one of the things that worked so well about the live-action films is the enjoyment of seeing all these historical figures interact with one another, something that this film manages to capture as well). Even when you can predict exactly where most of the character arcs are going to end up, it’s pleasant enough watching them get to that obvious conclusion during their quick and harmless journey.

The way that this movie is presented, it’s almost like a feature-length pilot for a Night at the Museum animated series, and if that’s ultimately where it ends up, then it’s honestly not a bad one to kick things off with. There is plenty of potential for an animated series to explore new characters, develop existing ones, and go on the types of historical adventures that the live-action movies perhaps couldn’t obtain the budget to do, and Kahmunrah Rises Again earns its existence because of that, which is way more than anyone can say about Disney’s other 20th Century Studios reboots.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is a surprisingly decent animated reboot, which despite a smaller scale still manages to be decent fun for young audiences with likeable characters and great potential for a hypothetical future TV series in the same format.

Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is now available to stream on Disney+

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