Ben Stiller’s fun adventure-comedy makes history cool for the whole family.
In Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller (Reality Bites, Dodgeball) plays Larry Daley, a dreamer who has just never been able to hatch one of his many big schemes. To win back the respect of his son, Larry takes the only job he can find—working as a night watchman at New York’s famous Museum of Natural History. But after just a few minutes on the job, Larry discovers the biggest challenge won’t be staying awake for his whole shift. As it turns out, thanks to the magic of a talisman in one of the Egyptian mummy exhibits, everything in the museum comes to life at night. Larry quickly learns he has to manage a melee of stampeding dinosaurs, angry Huns, demanding Easter Island heads, mini-Mayans, and more. But is he equal to the task?
Night at the Museum is basically a kids’ movie that hinges on the cool concept that everything in the museum comes alive at night. And as such, there are some minor plot holes in Ben Garant's and Thomas Lennon’s s(Reno 911, The Pacifier) script, but nothing that really gets in the way of the real fun—seeing Stiller interact with all the crazy museum inhabitants in full CGI-glory.
Stiller is a little too clean cut to really be believable as a terminally unemployed drifter who has never been able to support his family. But well-defined characters aren’t exactly this type of movie this type of movie is made of, it's his humor and watchability. I literally can't imagine the movie would be in any way interesting without someone like him in this part.
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Meet the Parents) recycles his usual stoner/surfer/New Age hippie shtick as Jedediah, the miniature Old West cowboy, and Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs (The Hudsucker Proxy) are cute together as the trio of oddly spry night guards that Larry is replacing. The part of Teddy Roosevelt is kind of a weird one for Robin Williams as it doesn’t really use any of his best assets. Not only is his main function to mentor Larry, but it is also such a specific character that it seems to call on neither his inimitable comic improvisations, nor the depth and stillness he can bring to more dramatic roles.
Two of the smaller roles did pleasantly surprise, though. Keep an eye out for Paul Rudd (Clueless, The 40 Year Old Virgin) as Don, Larry’s son’s high-achieving, super-dorky, gadget-obsessed step-dad, as well as the wonderful Ricky Gervais (who originated the British version of The Office) as Larry’s easily flustered, inarticulate boss.
The concept behind Night at the Museum is nothing new—it’s just a modern take on the Velveteen Rabbit myth. Luckily that story idea hasn’t been done to death in recent years, and director Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther, Cheaper By The Dozen) executes on it well enough that while the movie is essentially geared toward 10-year-olds, adults will definitely find it enjoyable, too.
Is Night at the Museum going to stay with you for hours provoking lots of deep ponderings after you walk out of the theater? No. But if you want to be entertained for a couple of hours with the whole family on Christmas, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
What's on the Disc:
The team behind Night at the Museum is quite proud of its achievement, and they aren't going to hold back on telling you about it - in more DVD extras than any human--alive or mummified--could ever conceivably desire. Here's a rundown of the substantial back-patting on the two-disc set, which I will admit has some nice graphics. Note the cutsey names:
-Two commentaries - one by director Shawn Levy, one by writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
-Loading Dock - several deleted and extended scenes with and without optional commentary by director Shawn Levy that you understand why they were cut out.
-The Hall of Biodiversity - featurettes galore, including "Bringing the Museum to Life" (behind the scenes on how they achieved so much animation/special effects), "Directing 101" (montage of the director acting out the animated parts for Stiller to react to), a decent Blooper Reel, "Monkey Business" (behind the scenes on Crystal, the capuchin monkey who played Dexter in the movie), and "Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Night at the Museum" (yet another behind the scenes featurette).
-The Security Office - Yet more featurettes: "Building the Museum" (on building the set which recreates the real Museum of Natural History in New York) and "Historical Threads: The Costumes of Night at the Museum" (on just what you'd expect). Plus,"The Director's Vision Comes Alive: A Storyboard Comparison with Introduction by Shawn Levy", which compares the detailed storyboards he created of the movie with the actual scenes.
-Stage Coach - You guessed iit, MORE featurettes. Seriously. "Making of Night at the Museum," "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene" (featurette on Larry's first night on the job