Night at the Museum

  • Shawn Levy
  • 2006

Family entertainment usually falls into two categories: fun for all or fun for only those young enough to ignore leaps of logic, pacing and character. Sadly, Night at the Museum, despite all its effort to win over the adults with it’s “A” grade comic actors, will be remembered by the children more interested in CGI trickery including a dinosaur made completely out of bones. Ben Stiller stars as divorced father Larry, struggling to hold down a job and in need of one immediately to keep his son’s faith in him alive. His ex-wife has hooked up with a pawn broker with all the job security Larry lacks, piling on the pressure. So Larry gets a job at the local natural history museum as the nightshift security guard, but it is not a role starring at monitors: at night, all the exhibits come to life. He has to play fetch with a dinosaur skeleton, prevent the mini Romans fighting the mini Cowboys and fend off a cheeky monkey’s attempts to ruin each shift. The question is, can Larry hold it all together?

There are few laughs with Stiller detached from the more adult fare he is better suited to.

This fantastical setting is clearly designed to make way for lavish special effects that will wow the children as the screen fills with all manner of walking, talking and fighting museum displays. As well as those mentioned above, Attila the Hun is on the prow, African animals need to be locked up and an Easter Island head is on hand (or should that be shoulders?) to give a few hints. Predictably enough, Larry struggles at first, but as the Theodore Roosevelt mannequin (Robin Williams) tells him: “Some are born with greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them”. It is up to Larry to answer his call to greatness.

Stiller is merely going through the tried and tested family comedy motions in Night at the Museum: a bumbling father caught up in a chaos he cannot fully control. There are few laughs with Stiller detached from the more adult fare he is better suited to. The same goes for Robin Williams who has not been funny for years in these roles and was much better in Jumanji (Joe Johnston, 1995) which shares a similar emphasis on the fantastic. The museum curator, played by the immensely popular British comedian Ricky Gervais, a friend of Stiller’s, barely raises a smile either. An Owen Wilson/Steve Coogan double act is amusing although they have played the same fast-talking/Alan Partridge characters so many times before. A rare appearance by Dick van Dyke as one of three old security guards almost injects some life into this dull (for adults) movie. It will score highly with the younger audiences however, with the wacky characters and expensive CGI making for a lively visual experience. You can tell more money was spent making this film look amazing than put substance behind the visual concept. Night at the Museum is sugar-coated-fluff, but the kind of fluff parents will give them a couple of hours of quiet from their children.

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