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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.82%
Worth A Look: 34.09%
Pretty Bad: 18.18%
Total Crap: 2.27%

3 reviews, 26 user ratings

Night at the Museum
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by EricDSnider

"A premise in search of a better story."
3 stars

"Night at the Museum" has a premise that sounds fantastic until you look closely at it. It's about a security guard at a large museum who discovers his first night on the job that between sunset and sunrise, everything in the place comes to life. A little close to "Jumanji," sure, but that's workable.

The problem is, where can you go with such a premise? Any scenes set outside the museum, or set inside the museum during daylight hours, will seem irrelevant. Why waste our time with other stuff when there are living dioramas and T-rex skeletons to look at? And furthermore, what's the actual story going to be? "A museum where the exhibits come to life" isn't a plot; it's a premise. You have to DO something with it to turn it into a plot.

The "Night at the Museum" writers -- the hacktastic duo of Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (both so funny as actors on "Reno 911," and so bad as writers of family dreck like "The Pacifier" and "Herbie Fully Loaded") -- have fleshed out Milan Trenc's children's book to include a trio of retiring security guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs) who tell the new guy, Larry (Ben Stiller), the source of the museum's mysterious power. They also provide conflict when they try to snag that power for themselves.

It's the first special-effects-heavy comedy for star Ben Stiller or director Shawn Levy ("Cheaper by the Dozen," "The Pink Panther"), but both adapt rather well. Perhaps because the many digital effects make rampant improvisation too expensive, Stiller is much more subdued than usual, with the resultant performance far more likable than when he's sweatily trying to get laughs. Levy, for his part, keeps the pace brisk and the storytelling simple.

The museum has a wide range of exhibits, including dioramas with miniature Old West figures and ancient Roman warriors. When they come to life, the tiny li'l fellas -- Jedediah (Owen Wilson) the cowboy and Octavius (Steve Coogan) the Roman -- fight with each other rather amusingly and lead their Lilliputian forces to attack Larry.

On the life-size level, there are Huns, lots of ferocious African mammals, and a wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) who has long pined for the wax figure of Sacagawea (Mizuo Peck). Larry interacts with all of these and more, at first unable to control the chaos that ensues every time the sun sets, but soon taking command and governing his charges like a general.

Nearly everything else about the movie is negligible. That includes Larry's scenes trying to make his young son Nick (Jake Cherry) look up to him, and his attempts to befriend and impress a docent (Carla Gugino). So, too, are the half-hearted attempts to make it look like Larry has taken control of the late-night chaos by learning and applying history. Who made the rule that "family movies" must be filled with treacly sentiment and life lessons? Can't a guy just run around a museum being pursued by reanimated mastodons and wax-figure Neanderthals? When that's the order of business, "Night at the Museum" is fine.

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originally posted: 12/22/06 20:27:40
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User Comments

10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 3 stars
6/07/08 John M a cute movie, museum dinos & soldiers coming to life 4 stars
10/29/07 Geoff Chapman fun family film, with very cute characters. 4 stars
7/17/07 David Cohen I'm getting a little sick of the "divorced man trying to impress his precocious son" cliche 3 stars
7/03/07 Tanya g I laughed a lot, it was cute 4 stars
6/06/07 tracey chambers kids will love it, adults not so much 3 stars
6/02/07 Hetop Yeah yeah blah blah second rate 2 stars
5/17/07 Abs Midly amusing a few times, but a preety lame plot 1 stars
5/06/07 Total Crap Too childish for me, it could've been better under a PG-13 rating. 2 stars
4/17/07 Ponce de Leon Hey Larry, let me into that museum! It's the happening place. Forget Florida! 5 stars
4/13/07 Joan of Arc Light entertainment. Wish last move I saw before tuning to dust had been a better one. 3 stars
3/08/07 man better than you think 4 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Museum? Maybe the hall-of-fame!!! I love it. 4 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Simple-minded crowdpleaser has great effects, generic story, obvious gags. 3 stars
1/14/07 Rebecca Great for kids around 11 but I had a few laughs 4 stars
1/10/07 Ole Man Bourbon Cute but dumb (obviously). If you liked the trailer, watch it. If not, don't. 3 stars
1/10/07 ES Great, except a bit rushed & the woman seemed to accept the weirdness a little too easily 4 stars
1/09/07 Jeff Anderson Fun for a while, but soulless. Renee April's costumes & Claude Pare's sets are gr8, though! 3 stars
1/06/07 Dark Enchantress Great movie and very funny. I dont know why it got such bad reviews! 5 stars
1/04/07 Gail Adams Loved it! Lots of fun, and much better than Jumanji. 5 stars
12/30/06 Austin Wertman UNDERRATED 4 stars
12/29/06 orpy Fun movie for kids, not too bad, not great 3 stars
12/28/06 Rob H Could have been so much better. Needed a little Harry Potter type darkness. 3 stars
12/25/06 Aaron Smith Loved to watch displays come to life! 4 stars
12/24/06 Jim Good comedy/fantasy idea buried in sentimental claptrap and unnecessary subplots. 3 stars
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  22-Dec-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Shawn Levy

Written by
  Ben Garant
  Daniel Goldin

  Ben Stiller
  Carla Gugino
  Robin Williams
  Ricky Gervais
  Dick Van Dyke
  Mickey Rooney

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