Very few of us get the opportunity to script our own farewell. David Chase and Vince Gilligan did it with their own brilliant television programs. Stephen Colbert did it last night. And the late, great Robin Williams pulls it off beautifully with Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which you can start seeing today.
This column will talk openly about Night at the Museum, so bail now if you want to avoid all spoilers.
Our own Mike Reyes mentioned this in his review of the third and final Night At The Museum chapter, commenting that director Shawn Levy and co-stars Robin Williams and Ben Stiller "end the film with an emotional finale that closes out the series in a bittersweet manner." Williams returns to his role of the wax-figure Teddy Roosevelt, who comes to life each evening to help museum security guard Larry (Stiller) on a series of increasingly wacky adventures.
This time out, though, fate truly intervened. From the time it was announced, this third installment in the popular (and financially successful) Night at the Museum series always was going to be its last. And while the door sort of is left open for a spinoff franchise structured around a new sidekick character – no spoilers – you get the impression while watching the goofy but sweet Secret of the Tomb that everyone involved was working toward closure. Ben Stiller’s character, Larry, gets tender sendoffs from each major character, from Owen Wilson’s finger-sized cowboy to the monkey who slapped his face throughout the trilogy.
Then he gets to Robin Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt, and their goodbye takes on new meaning.
It’s not overdone. You get the impression that the scripted farewell shared between Stiller and Williams is exactly what director Shawn Levy planned. Maybe he ended up using more of the footage in his arsenal, in order to check off all of the emotional beats on the scene. But the unexpected passing of Robin Williams earlier this year gives this sequence – and this entire sequel – a warm, comforting and melodramatic tinge that will create more than a few lumps in the throats of fans.
Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb isn’t Robin Williams’ last role. Not technically. He’ll lend his voice to Absolutely Anything, which is due in theaters in 2015. But this is the last time that we will see the brilliant, gifted and hysterical comedian on screen. And the way that the fates converged, he is given an incredibly touching send off, a cinematic farewell that fans of all ages will appreciate this holiday season, and beyond.