a critiQal film review Night at the Museum (2006)

Plot: Larry (Stiller), desperate for a "real" job to show his son he's responsible, takes a job as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. But, his cushy job is not as easy as it first appears, as these museum exhibits come to life when the sun goes down...

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Since we already watched the 3 movies Blockbuster® had delivered to us this weekend (The Prestige (2006), Man of the Year (2006) and Deja Vu (2006)) – and we still felt like vegging out – we drove over to our local Blockbuster® to take advantage of exchanging the movies for free. Since we wanted to spend the day watching movies together, it took a bit of convincing (she wanted Because I Said So, I wanted The Hitcher (2007)), but we finally came up with 3 we both wanted to see: Night At The Museum, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj (2006) and Happy Feet (2006).

We kicked it off with Night At The Museum, which we had both been wanting to see since our first glimpse of the preview. A museum where all the exhibits come to life every night – and Ben Stiller is the security guard? Sounds like a blast. But, would Ben be able to keep the comedy going strong, or would the exhibits run the show?

Ben Stiller seems to have his ups and downs. He gave viewers the hilarious spoof Zoolander and was one of the comedic highlights in his small role in Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny – but then he also helped to create the steaming pile that was Envy (2004).

When Ben goes over the top, he’s gold, but he plays the straight guy and the film goes down in flames. Doesn’t bode well for Night At The Museum, does it? And it’s true, the first few scenes where he’s trying to communicate with his son come off rather awkward and incredibly forced. But, once the museum relics begin to kick things into high gear, he loosens his tie and jumps headfirst into the fun.

The melee that is the museum at night works perfectly for him, as he doesn’t have time to overact – too many events are happening for him to spend too long on just one. Instead, the audience is treated to Ben’s comedy in smaller doses in Night at the Museum, quick bytes if you will – and everyone is much better off because of it.

He’s joined by lots of famous cohorts in differing bit parts in Night at the Museum, from Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt to Owen Wilson as Jedediah, a miniature cowboy, to Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney as retiring night watchmen. This backup cast is hilarious almost from start to finish, and give Ben just the backing he needs.

The plot – well, that’s more of a background in the special effects extravaganza that is Night at the Museum. The night watchman job sets the scene for chaos and hilarity to ensue, with a rather cliched bad guy causing the museum to band together and win through in the end. A bit cheesy, a bit simple – but then again, movies like this don’t really require much plot, do they?

The special effects are simply astounding in Night at the Museum. From animating a dinosaur skeleton so realistic it looks like it’s actually running around the room, to creating full-scale attacks from two miniature sides, to the animals rampaging around the museum, the effects are heavily strewn throughout the film – and not one of them will cause the viewer to pause – except maybe to wonder “how did they do that?”

While the cast is stellar, and the special effects are incredible, the simplistic plot of Night at the the Museum points out to anyone who didn’t notice that this is really a kid’s movie. Sure, adults will laugh at all of the antics as well, but this film is definitely aimed for pre-teens/teens.

Night at the Museum is a definite rental for Family Movie Night – and those without kids are sure to have fun too.

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