Night At The Museum

 
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by:Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
Starring: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Owen Wilson, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan
Released: December 26, 2006
Grade: B+

Night At The Museum is a cool family movie.  It’s not trying to tell us a message and it’s not trying to make us feel warm and fuzzy.  All it asks is that you sit back, relax and enjoy.

Larry Daley (Stiller) is a divorced father who is struggling to make ends meet.  He’s been fired and it looks like he’ll have to move out of his apartment.  Worst of all, Larry just found out that his son, Nick (Cherry), didn’t invite him to his school’s career day.  It seems that Nick is embarrassed by his dad’s inability to hold down a job.

Desperate to win back his son’s respect, Larry goes to a job agency looking for anything that’s available.  The only position is that of a nightwatchman at the Museum of Natural History.  The previous three guards leave Larry a book of instructions and a set of keys.  They also give him an important piece of advice – “don’t let anything in or out”.

Larry realises the significance of their comment when the sun sets and the front doors are closed – the museum comes to life!  The human statues and the stuffed animals all start to move.  As you can imagine, mayhem ensues.  He is attacked by a dinosaur skeleton, has his keys stolen by a monkey and is chased by Attila The Hun.  Larry sums it up best when he mumbles to himself that “this is so not worth $11.50 an hour”.

Many viewers will see the obvious similarity in the story with that of Jumanji (the Robin Williams flick released in 1995).  I can forgive the lack of originality because of the wonderful characters that make Night At The Museum so entertaining.  Ben Stiller is great as Larry.  After getting over the initial shock of the situation, Larry has a few laughs by trying to outsmart the museum’s inhabitants.  He doesn’t always find success but his ridiculous plans are amusing to watch.

The funniest scenes in the film are those between Stiller and English actor Ricky Gervais (The Office).  As the museum’s curator, Gervais gives new meaning to the word “eccentric”.  He’s always trailing off and you never know what he’s trying to say.  It’s a shame he only appears in a handful of scenes.

Rounding out the diverse cast are legends Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs who play the three former guards.  With an average age of 79, their appearance will bring back many memories for older members in the audience.

There are two types of “family films”.  In the first category, we have films targeted purely at kids – those where children go to have fun and adults go to keep an eye on them.  In the second category, we have films targeted at everyone – those where both children and adults can have a good time.  Night At The Museum easily falls into the later category.