NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
Out of work divorced dad Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) wangles himself a job as night watchman at New York's famed History of Natural Museum, where he is replacing the three old timers (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs) who have shared the work, victims of downsizing. What they don't tell him is that the exhibits come to life each night, and why. Larry's nightmare at the museum is salvaged by the Teddy Roosevelt figure (Robin Williams), with whose encouragement he finds a way to take back control and to show his son Nick (Jake Cherry) his very best side.
Review by Louise Keller:
A clever and innovative concept inspired from an illustrated children's book that integrates historic figures and creatures, Night at the Museum could have been a riot, but is reduced to little more than a good idea. As the film says, the more we know about the past, the more we understand about the future, and here is the perfect opportunity to stimulate our hunger for the past. But the integration of the incongruous characters and animals in the museum is contrived mish-mash. It's a case of the execution being half as good as the concept. Ben Stiller fans may feel a bit cheated - this is not the crazy comedy we have come to expect from the wacky star of films like Zoolander.
Ben Stiller's Larry Daley is a loser. We don't know much about him, except that both his work and home life is in tatters. His son Nick (Jake Cherry) is the most important thing in his life and he is eager to win his respect. When he is offered the job as night guard at the museum, it is clear that there is a snag. The three old night guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs) are a formidable team, who seem quite at home among the wax figures and extinct animals. Larry's nights are full of surprises when the museum's inhabitants come to life. They include a skeletal dinosaur who wants to play catch, an ancient statue who wants to chew gum, Robin Williams' President Teddy Roosevelt who has a crush on the lovely Shoshone Indian Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), the conflicted miniature cowboys (led by Owen Wilson) and Roman armies (led by Steve Coogan), the Neanderthals, the Huns and a cheeky monkey called Dexter with a keys fetish.
The ideas are bold and inventive as characters from different eras find themselves in the same space. Through the chaos of the nightly adventures, there is time to pit good against evil, include the promise of a romance and to gloss over the father son relationship between Larry and Nick. The effects are good but it's a case of a heavy handed night at the museum.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A high concept movie with low deliverables, Night at The Museum has a certain enthusiasm going for it, and a few chuckles, but it's not enough. The movie plays as though its elements were stirred into it with rule book care. A divorced, no hoper dad trying to step up in his son's (Jake Cherry) eyes, with a sceptical ex (Kim Raver) who has a nerdy new husband, and a fantasy that should lead us somewhere but ends up in stodgy, schmalzy, rah rah rubbish.
The movie's potentially funniest moments all seem to wither in the execution, as was the case with director Shawn Levy's previous attempt at comedy, The Pink Panther remake (2006) with Steve Martin. Plastic story and heavy-handed direction will do that.
But there is one highlight: English comic Ricky Gervais playing the Museum's boss, who delivers the deadpan comedy for which he is so famous (The Office) and which is the only element in this film that really comes off. Sadly, I include Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson's under par performances as a Roman General and a Cowboy respectively. There is far too much overstatement everywhere, nothing seems to be grounded in an emotional reality (father-son relationship included). The fun of a natural museum coming to life, stuffed as it is with characters across aeons from Egyptian princes to the lovely Sacagawe (Mizuo Peck), T Rex and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), is all just an empty charade.
Encouraged by scattered laughter during the preview screening, I tried hard to get with the film's tone, but found it resistant to my best intentions.
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NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (PG)
CAST: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Kim Raver
VOICES: Stefán Karl Stefánsson
PRODUCER: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Bob Ducsay, Shawn Levy
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
SCRIPT: Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon (Book by Milan Trenc)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Guillermo Navarro
EDITOR: Don Zimmerman
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Claude Paré
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2006