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Non-Review Review: Night at the Museum III – Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum III: Secret of the Tomb is fairly inoffensive family fare. It largely sets out to do what it wants to do – providing a sense of closure to the hits series while encouraging its all-star cast to have a bit of family-friendly fun together. The movie is hardly the most compelling adventure; it never manages to generate substantial stakes, it introduces a convenient third-act villain as the plot demands, it is frequently distracted by individual set pieces. At the same time, it feels like the movie largely hits the targets that it sets for itself.

Knight at the Museum...

Knight at the Museum…

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Up, Up and… Away?

I’m a huge Pixar fan – I always have been. I’ve seen every film they’ve released since Toy Story, and the only one that has disappointed me was Ratatouille. The studio is one that manages to be obscenely crowd-pleasing while seemingly equally risk-taking, seemingly disproving the notion that mainstream audiences dislike challenging entertainment – let alone challenging animation.

"Merchandise this!"

"Merchandise this!"

Still, I’m a little surprised at the assertion that Up might be the studio’s riskiest commercial venture yet. There are a whole host of convincing arguments that suggest that the company is making a risky gambit – from the commercial-based suggestion the movie isn’t as toyetic as Cars or Toy Story to the reasonably valid observation that the film may alienate younger viewers by focusing on a lonely old man rather than more visually appealing characters like Monsters Inc. or Ratatouille – but I’m not convinced.

Wall-E finds himself on top of the heap

Wall-E finds himself on top of the heap

In defense of my point, I point to Wall-E. The movie was the most breathtaking major release last year, and my third favourite film of the year (it was also my girlfriend’s favourite) – and before you label me as an indie-loving arthouse snob, my top two were The Dark Knight and Frost/Nixon. The film was about as non-commercial as you can get: next to no dialogue for the superior first half, an almost invisible bad guy in the autopilot, a lead cast that couldn’t speak and a soppy robotic romance. Yet somehow the film made over $500m at the world-wide box office (58% of which came from outside the US). Clearly the guys at Pixar know what they were doing.

I’ll admit that Up has (pardon the pun) an uphill climb. In the United States it’s opening in one of the most crowded Mays on record. It doesn’t really have much direct completion (save the delightfully titled Drag Me To Hell – I doubt it’s the same market), but Star Trek, Wolverine and Terminator will still be playing at the matinee. The more direct threat for the family money is opening only a week before. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonion will be arrive in theatres on May 22nd. Still, I think Pixar can do it. They always do.

Maybe I should be a little relieved, though, that the movie isn’t opening in Ireland until October.

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Up is the latest film from Pixar, starring the vocal talents of Edward Asner (Freakazoid, Batman: The Animated Series) and Christopher Plummer (Inside Man, The Sound of Music, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). It opens 29th May 2009 in the United States and 16th October 2009 in the UK.