Movie Review: Disney revives a franchise via animation — “Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again”

The animation’s slightly better than TV’s current state of the art, but the screenplay is strictly “Scooby-doo” for Disney’s latest former 20th Century Fox franchise revival, “Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again.”

I guess with the Disney+ “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” animated remake, we can see a pattern that’s an official corporate policy, now. They paid for these 20th Century properties, and the best way to monetize them is remake them on the cheap, with animation.

None of the voice actors from the adorable “Night at the Museum” films return. And animating that story, about the exhibits at New York’s beloved Museum of Natural History coming to life after hours,kind of spoils it. There was delight in seeing a place millions have visited turned into a kids’ adventure fantasy in which that famous Teddy Roosevelt statue started chatting and riffing (Robin Williams played him in the movies) and “Rexy,” the T-Rex, came to life as a skeletal Labrador Retriever.

“Kahmunrah Rises Again” isn’t very funny, either, and not terribly original.

Our former night watchman Larry (voiced by Zachary Levi, aka “Shazam!”) is leaving the job to run a museum in Tokyo. As nobody else can get over the shock of what goes on there, pranked by a stuffed monkey, the rambling Rexy, Sacagawea (Kieran Sequoia) and Joan of Arc (Alice Isaaz) manikins coming to life, menaced by toy-sized cowboy and Roman centurion models, Larry recommends his now teen son Nick (Joshua Bassett) for the gig.

Nick’s in high school, an aspiring DJ with perfect pitch who still can’t get into the school jazz band…because he’s a DJ. But since he knows the “secret” of the museum and the living exhibits know him, he’s the guy.

Wouldn’t you know it, his first night back he’s faced with a disaster as that “freaky pharaoh” Kahmunrah (Joseph Kamal) is revived. Labeled “The Disappointing Son” in his Museum of Natural History exhibit, he’ll show them, the world and his daddy by using ancient Egyptian god magicto take over the world.

That sends Nick and his friends from the Museum on a quest through time and distance, chasing Kamunrah as he seeks the spirits of his motherland along the Nile.

Of the supporting cast, Thomas Lennon makes Teddy Roosevelt’s pedantic banter funny, although no one could replace Robin Williams’ riffs in the role. Isaaz has some fun wiss zee funny French acCENT of St. Joan.

“Ayye DANZ on your GRAVE!”

Kamal curls his lips around the ironically hip, fourth-wall breaking villain. Siccing “Rexy” on Kamunrah, “atta girl, EAT’em” is no way to win a pharaoh’s favor.

“NO! Don’t eat me! That’ll make a really SHORT movie!”

The running gags about “unresolved daddy issues” and “childhood trauma” won’t amuse kids, and do little for the grownups either.

Pretty limp jokes and plotting all around, I’d say, with even the big finish brawl playing like “Scooby-doo” circa 1972, which really lets down the animation.

Two films isn’t a trend chiseled in stone, but I’d say this Disney practice of remaking 20th Century intellectual properties as “quick and a dirty” cartoons is something of a bust, unless they really need streaming filler that badly.

Rating:  PG for action/peril and some mild rude humor.

Cast: The voices of Joshua Bassett, Alice Isaaz, Kieran Sequoia, Joseph Kamal, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Parnell, Thomas Lennon and Zachary Levi

Credits: Directed by Matt Danner, scripted by Ray DeLaurentis and William Schifrin, based on the children’s book by Milan Trenc. A Disney + release.

Running time: 1:18

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.