Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

By Tim McEown

Mailed on December 22, 2014


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Dear Hugh O’Brien
Stand-in for Robin Williams

Dear Hugh,

Did you know? Could you see the fatigue? Did you spend more time than usual on set? Because from where I was sitting all I could see was a man who seemed emptied out. The word “bereft” and all that it implies was at the forefront of my mind every time he was onscreen. I didn’t love Robin Williams the same way many people seemed to. But I found myself getting pretty upset as I sat and watched his light going out.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is most notable for the fact that it’s one of the last films Robin Williams made before ending his life. Otherwise it is a pretty forgettable return to a franchise that is largely...well, forgettable. The whole gang (plus a Neanderthal version of Ben Stiller—don’t ask how that happens) head off to England to...

...never mind. It really isn’t important. There’s a MacGuffin about the moon and Ben Kingsley as Pharaoh and a tablet that looks like an Egyptian iPad, but that’s all just an excuse to change locations to the British Museum in London.

Did the set feel different? In an industry that often eats its young as a matter of course, I sometimes wonder how reptilian you must become to manage. You might actually know, eh, Hugh? You’ve spent a lot of time as the invisible man on set. Your IMDB page reads like the CV of a Ricky Gervais character: Fair Goer (uncredited) Philomena, Wealthy Gentleman (uncredited) Parks and Recreation, Hospital visitor (uncredited) Gangsta Granny. I can’t imagine the bad behavior and prima donna tantrums you must have witnessed (especially on Gangsta Granny).

Watching this film, for me, was mostly an exercise in trying not to choke up every time Robin Williams appeared onscreen. It felt faintly ghoulish, to be honest; watching a person recently dead struggle through threadbare dialogue while trying to project anything but pathos. The kids in the theatre seemed to enjoy what was in front of them. So there’s that.

There is a moment late in the film when Robin Williams, in the guise of Theodore Roosevelt, turns to Ben Stiller and gives him some advice about the best way to live.

The moment is so bursting with sad irony that both my wife and I actually started crying. Yet the children who surrounded us were happily unaware that anything other than a pause in the action was occurring. It was a surreal way to spend two hour so if you’re a parent who has any connection to Robin Williams as a performer, maybe it would be better to take the kids to Big Hero 6, or wait for Into The Woods. I doubt anyone except the producers of _Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb will suffer for your choice.

As for you Hugh, I hope you got to spend a little time with the man Robin Williams used to be—because the Robin Williams I saw up on the screen was the ghost of a person who has yet to pass.

Sincerely,

Tim

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