REVIEW: ‘Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again’ exists to test the waters of beloved IP
Among the intellectual properties The Walt Disney Company has acquired from the defunct 20th Century Fox is The Night at the Museum (2006) franchise, a story revolving around a museum where historical figures, relics, and artifacts come alive at night. Eight years since the trilogy closed, Disney+ releases a full animated feature bringing back the villain from the second movie, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) in the aptly titled Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again.
The plot now centers on the original protagonist’s son, Nick Daley (voiced by High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ Joshua Bassett), who takes a summer job as the museum’s night guard as Larry takes a new job in Japan. Nick’s fear of basements led to the release of Kahmunrah (The Flight Attendant’s Joseph Kamal), who restarts his quest to bring the apocalypse to ancient Egypt. What happens next is a template of the “hero’s journey” in 90s Disney movies where the reluctant savior eventually finds a way to battle his doubts in his new role.
Though the original trilogy director Shawn Levy is no longer helming the movie, he is credited as a producer. I wonder how much input the incoming director of Deadpool 3 had in the animated feature because it is subpar to his recent works in Free Guy and Stranger Things. Seeing his name might make longtime fans disappointed.
Nostalgia is not also the feature’s strength because it did not tap its original actors to voice the character. Why Ben Stiller (Zoolander) was replaced by Zachary Levy (Shazam!) baffles me because Stiller is the face of the franchise, and consequently should be the voice. To be fair, the role of Nick has been replaced throughout the trilogy - Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) played Nick in the first two films, and Skyler Gisondo (Licorice Pizza) acted him in the third. Bringing Daley to the animated feature perhaps could open possibilities for the younger actor in a live-action adaptation.
If that is the case, then Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again feels like it is serving as a bridge from the original trilogy to potential sequels. It appears to exist to test the waters of beloved IP. The fourth canonical film does not provide an imaginative plot or an animation style that could compete with MAPPA Studios or even, Studio Ghibli.
Still, it’s a good entry point for tweens and teens if you want to introduce them to the world of the Night at the Museum.
Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is now streaming on Disney+.