A Boys’ Own adventure: Night at the Museum 3

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while – don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film, no spoilers here!

Night at the Museum 3: The Secret of the Tomb begins in Indiana Jones territory: a boy, on an archaeological expedition, in the past, who of course stumbles upon the tomb they all seek. The Raiders references are dished up on a plate for the grown-ups, before we are whisked off to modern-day museum-land for all the CGI we can eat.

This makes it sound as if I didn’t enjoy the film, which is untrue. It has special effects, swordfighting, comic capers, and the old favourites return – look, there’s Cecil, still dancing! Add in the families-and-letting-go themes, and the bittersweetness of watching Robin Williams in one of his final film roles, and it’s a rollercoaster ride.

But slowly, I realised that, despite the bursting package, there was still something missing. Where are the women? Larry’s ex-wife, Nick’s mother, is mentioned but not seen. Sacagawea comes along for the ride, but she doesn’t get her own adventure, and at one point she literally fades into the background. There are a few incidental women – the institute chair, an administrator – but they vanish as quickly as they appear.

The glorious exception is Tilly, Rebel Wilson’s fast-talking, irrepressible security guard, who steals the scene every time she appears. One woman.

Sure, you could argue that having Nick’s mum around might have detracted from the father-son theme, or that Larry doesn’t have to have a love interest in every film, or that maybe the museums depicted don’t have enough prominent representations of women in them, so it wasn’t the film’s fault.

I checked out the cast lists according to credits order for all three films on IMDB, and the results are in:

Night at the Museum NM2 NM3
Rebecca (museum guide) – 2nd Amelia Earhart – 2nd Tilly (security guard)– 7th
Erica (Larry’s ex) – 9th Sacagawea – 15th Sacagawea – 11th
Sacagawea – 15th

The slipping in the prominence of women in the series worries me. We have here an adventure film, a family film, a big Christmas blockbuster, showing kids that women don’t really have a place on an adventure. I doubt my two small boys even noticed the absence of female characters. But one notable woman, in a big-budget family adventure, just isn’t enough. I’m hoping that we get a fourth film with Rebel Wilson as top billing, and some more female museum pieces. Come on Hollywood, make it happen.

The featured image is Great Movie Ride Marquee by Sam Howzit and is shared via Creative Commons license 2.0.


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