Confession: I let mediocre movies run in the background on my computer when I’m working, so I can “watch them” without them really sucking up too much time.
Normally, the Night of the Museum movies are a little fun and cute.
Not serious, not hilarious, but not terrible either.
Except this one.
The quest: the tablet is failing, so EVERYBODY IS DYING. That should be some serious fucking motivation.
All Larry’s pals from the museum are turning back into wax.
It’s the END OF THE WORLD.
So he goes to the British museum to ask the Pharaoh’s father how to fix the tablet and save everybody.
But then he gets distracted:
1. He makes small talk with the female security guard.
2. He lets Lancelot ramble on about his court fool.
3. When the little cowboy and roman guy go missing, he sends down the monkey with a cell phone so he can track the location.
4. When he finally meets the Pharaoh, they talk a bit about Jewish culture and banter before learning the secret: the tablet needs moonlight.
Great! Just recharge the tablet, end of story.
But then Lancelot steals it… so they chase Lancelot.
And then just when he’s about to catch him, he lets himself be apprehended by the female security guard because she’s threatening to hurt his neanderthal doppelganger.
I understand the movie needs conflict and the plot needs to develop. I understand all the little annoying one liners and dialogue are meant to be funny.
But I can’t forgive Larry when he’s sitting locked up in the office, the world ending, all his friends dying, no hope in sight, and he uses the time to complain about fatherhood and parenting, and the fact that his son doesn’t want to go to college.
What are you really focused on?
Even if the stakes seem high, even if failure doesn’t seem like an option, even if you think you are doing everything in your power, ask yourself this:
What are you really thinking about? What are you complaining about? What troubles you?
If the truth is, you’re fixated on personal gripes, relationship problems and feeling like you don’t have control over the things in your own personal experience (rather than your QUEST) you will probably never be successful.
#1 One thing at a time
Like Lancelot says, your quest is ONE THING. Not one thing and maybe a monkey. Everything you do is a choice. Every time you’re not working towards your Big Goal, you’re choosing not to. There will always be other things you feel you should do. There will always be distractions.
Winners tune everything else out. It’s hard. Sometimes you have to ignore those you care about. Sometimes you need to let your own personal life and relationships fall apart.
Completing your quest demands sacrifice. Most people will tell you it isn’t worth it: all that matters is your own happiness and the quality of your relationships – but they are thinking small. You can’t make everyone happy. You can’t get everything you want.
Some things will be out of your control. You only have THIS moment, right now, where you are either in relentless pursuit of your objective, or you aren’t.
#2: Take Action
In the movie, his whiny, rationalizing, narrative self is analyzing his relationship with his son. Meanwhile his caveman self breaks the window of the door with his head so they can get out. I think this is a nice metaphor for our cognitive vs. natural selves and active vs. reactive living.
There’s a door in front of you. You seem stuck. You can’t get through it by thinking. Do you use the time to focus on other things? Fix what you can while you can’t and ignore the obstacle keeping you from taking action towards your door?
In truth, “Whenever one door closes, another opens.” There is ALWAYS a way to get what you want. It may not be obvious. You can’t always see the full path. But often taking some action towards your goal is better than none at all.
Sometimes, it may seem pointless to run your head against a rock wall a thousand times in the same way; maybe even foolish. However, a thousand drops of water can wear away stone. And sometimes the act of making any effort with enough dedication and consistency is enough to get others to support you. Sometimes you just need to show up.
#3: Don’t quit when you fail
They run out of time. Everybody dies. The moment sinks in when they lose Dexter, the monkey. It’s mostly Larry’s fault for being stupid (he even stopped to compliment Hugh Jackson).
Of course, this is the necessary moment that drives dramatic fiction. The hero faces his nemesis and LOSES.
But Lancelot learns what he thinks is the Truth of the Situation:
“I understand now – the monkey was the quest.”
So on the surface, the movie is saying this: save the people you love. Protect them.
Together, they recharge the tablet and save everyone.
In a surprise ending – all of Larry’s magical pals decide to die anyway by giving up the tablet, leaving it at the British Museum. They are ready to go back to being dumb and mute museum display. They tell Larry to let them go.
He says his sad goodbyes.
Teddy tells him “It’s time for your next adventure.”
So Larry moves on. Becomes a teacher. Leaves the magic, the purpose, the Quests behind him. It’s a movie version of letting go control (letting your son make his own choices; letting other people choose their own destinies).
Even though Larry thought he had to save everybody all the time, actually he needed them more than they needed him. His Quest and Purpose could very possibly be re-imagined as a lonely guy with no friends who isn’t close to his son, so he imagines a bunch of imaginary friends, and they don’t want to hang out with him either.
Before you dedicate yourself to a Quest, make sure it’s real, make sure that it matters, and make sure it will benefit other people. Don’t commit your life to something small that only you care about.