This week’s new films reviewed

Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb
Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb

Plucky security guard Ben Stiller heads to London for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (PG)

It’s time to say goodbye.

The third chapter of the blockbusting Night At The Museum franchise has lost two of its greatest special effects – Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams – in the past 12 months.

So it’s fitting that Secret Of The Tomb should be an action-packed adventure punctuated with dewy-eyed farewells and warm-hearted reminiscence.

Shawn Levy’s picture is a fitting swansong, reuniting most of the protagonists from the original for a final transatlantic hurrah.

The script adds father-son bonding to the mix and a new Neanderthal called Laa (Ben Stiller), who is partial to munching on polystyrene foam.

For the most part though, familiarity with the series’ larger-than-life characters breeds contentment.

The third chapter opens in 1938 Egypt, where adventurer Robert Fredericks (Brennan Elliott) and his 12-year-old son CJ (Percy Hynes-White) stumble upon a burial chamber.

“If anyone disturbs this tomb, the end will come!” proclaims one superstitious local.

Undaunted, Fredericks empties the site of its priceless artefacts, dividing the treasures between New York and London.

Fast-forwarding to the present day, the magical Tablet Of Ahkmenrah, which brings to life the exhibits of the American Museum Of Natural History, is losing its power.

Security guard Larry Daley (Stiller) recognises the repercussions for his display case chums and enlists the help of museum director Dr McPhee (Ricky Gervais) to ship the tablet to the British Museum in London, home of pharaoh Merenkahre (Sir Ben Kingsley), who fashioned the tablet in honour of his son Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek).

Larry heads for the British capital with his son Nick (Skyler Gisondo) and several stowaways: Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Roman general Octavius (Steve Coogan), Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher), interpreter Sacagawea (Mizuo Peck), Laa and Dexter the capuchin monkey.

Aided by dashing Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) and hindered by local security guard Mindy (Rebel Wilson), Larry races against time to restore the tablet’s lustre before the magic dissipates forever.

Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb milks our affection for the characters without exhausting our good will.

There’s nothing innovative in the third film but good humour and sweetness prevail, and the script continues to have fun juxtaposing the modern and ancient worlds like when Sir Lancelot asks Nick, “Have you ever held a blade?” and the teenager responds, “Only in World Of Warcraft.”

London looks splendid through Levy’s lens, accompanied by a predictable yet rousing chorus of The Clash, and an extended cameo by a Hollywood superstar during the frenetic denouement is a treat.

Stiller seems to have tears in his eyes for most of the second half, relying predominantly on co-stars to lasso the laughs.

When Williams’ waxwork President acknowledges the end is nigh and softly remarks, “You have to let us go,” it’s hard not to get a little lump in your throat.

RATING: 6/10

ANNIE (PG)

Adapted from the popular Broadway musical, the 1982 film version of Annie is firmly engrained in many rose-tinted childhood memories.

The uplifting story of a flame-haired orphan girl who overcomes insurmountable odds to win the heart of a billionaire businessman taps into our deep-rooted sense of belonging.

Infectious music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin have reverberated throughout popular culture from episodes of 30 Rock, Glee and South Park to a sample on rapper Jay-Z’s 1998 single Hard Knock Life.

Will Gluck’s glossy modern remake retains most of the original songbook with a couple of new soaring ballads.

Some of the updates don’t quite work: changing Annie’s residence from an orphanage to a foster home significantly reduces the number of children in care for one of the big song and dance numbers.

Also Carol Burnett’s ferocious portrayal of Miss Hannigan has been softened so Cameron Diaz retains a glimmer of likeability, even when she’s drunkenly snarling, “You think the world wants a smart-mouthed little girl?”.

On the whole, Gluck’s reworking possesses the same wholesome likeability including a winning title performance from Quvenzhane Wallis, who was Oscar-nominated for Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

Annie (Wallis) lives in Harlem in the dubious care of embittered, alcoholic, faded pop star Colleen Hannigan (Diaz) with four other girls: Tessie (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Mia (Nicolette Pierini), Isabella (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Pepper (Amanda Troya).

Eternally cheerful and optimistic, Annie believes her real parents will return for her, so every Friday she sits outside the Italian restaurant where her folks left her aged four with a note.

During one of her regular jaunts around the city, Annie is rescued from the path of a truck by mobile phone company billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who is running for mayor.

The footage goes viral and boosts Will’s approval ratings.

Election advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale), who masterminded campaigns for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Jong-Il, suggests that Will temporarily adopts Annie.

Will agrees and welcomes Annie into his high-tech penthouse, where she befriends the mogul’s trusty assistant Grace (Rose Byrne).

Over time, Annie opens Will’s heart but just when he is poised to consider adopting her forever, her real parents (Tracie Thoms, Dorian Missick) reappear.

Annie lacks some of the rough charm of the 1982 film but director Gluck and his team add enough contemporary spit and polish without obscuring the story’s emotional arc.

Cast lip-sync convincingly and the big numbers are slickly choreographed including a heartfelt rendition of Tomorrow from Wallis on the city streets.

An extended sequence at the premiere of a fantasy film called Moon Quake Lake – featuring wink-wink cameos from Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Rihanna – is rather cute.

“People love musicals, they’re magical,” observes one character.

This version of Annie has an ample sprinkling of that lustre dust.

RATING: 6/10

DUMB AND DUMBER TO (15)

There’s no shortage of dim-witted, foolhardy and empty-headed characters on the big screen.

Watch any horror film and at least one victim will venture into the dark to investigate a strange noise when common sense dictates you run in the opposite direction.

Inspector Clouseau blundered through various investigations yet somehow always solved the case, A Clockwork Orange featured a droog called Dim and Kevin Kline won an Oscar as numbskull assassin Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda.

Forrest Gump, one of cinema’s great innocents, famously remarked that “stupid is as stupid does” and using that barometer, Dumb And Dumber To takes the art of moronic tomfoolery to new depths.

From the eye-watering opening gag of a DIY catheter removal, Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s mindless sequel to their hit 1994 comedy embraces every crude, lewd and inappropriate set-up imaginable in its relentless pursuit of cheap, grubby titters.

If this is the future of comedy on film then the art form has flat-lined and I would strongly recommend a Do Not Resuscitate order.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as best pals Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, who mix up their words (“That’s all water under the fridge”) and are blinkered to the perils of modern life.

They merrily take a shower under the waste water pipe from a nuclear power plant.

For two decades, Lloyd (Carrey) has been consigned to Baldy View Psychiatric Hospital, where Harry (Daniels) visits and helps nurses to wash, dress and feed the comatose patient.

Thankfully, Lloyd regains the few senses he possesses and supports Harry through his own medical emergency: an urgent kidney transplant.

Since Harry is adopted, there is no familial donor and the future seems bleak.

Out of the blue, Harry learns that he fathered a child in 1991 with old flame Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner).

“Do you know what this means? You have a grown kid... with grown kidneys!” shrieks Lloyd.

The dim-witted duo track down the fruit of Harry’s loins, Penny (Rachel Melvin), to her adopted parents: reclusive scientist Dr Pinchelow (Steve Tom) and his trophy wife (Laurie Holden).

Alas, Penny has already departed for a convention in El Paso to honour her father’s ground-breaking work.

So the simple-minded pals hit the road – and occasionally each other – in order to reunite Harry with his long-lost offspring and persuade her to give up her organ.

Dumb And Dumber To is a greater ordeal for us than it is for Harry and Lloyd, who are battered and bruised by misfortune.

The plot is nonsensical and includes pointless diversions including a brief reappearance of the Mutt Cutts dog van from the original picture.

Carrey and Daniels fling themselves into the fray with gusto, at the mercy of a script that lacks subtlety, sophistication or any discernible laughs.

RATING: 2/10