Wednesday, December 27, 2006

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

Ben Stiller Night at the Museum Directed by Shawn Levy
Starring Ben Stiller
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

VERY HESITANT THUMBS UP! A VERY HESITANT THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!

Looking for a fantasy-filled escapist flick? You’d be hard-pressed to find a funnier one this holiday season than NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM.

Initial concerns of a Jumanji rip-off are quickly put to rest as we learn that the results of inanimate things coming to life at a history museum are the result of an Egyptian tablet with supernatural powers.

The fun comes when Larry Daley (
Ben Stiller, Starsky and Hutch), a down-on-his-luck father who has difficulty holding down a full-time job while worrying about losing his pre-teen son to his ex-wife’s new beau, picks up the improbable job of night-guard at the natural history museum. He meets up with the old guards played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs, as they are supposedly being pushed out of their jobs in favor of a leaner staff.

Larry is obviously uninformed and unprepared for what happens to the museum when night falls, but quickly learns the ropes. Skeletal T-Rex is simply a puppy who loves to chase his own bones. But the African monkey is a kleptomaniac that absconds with Larry’s keys, instructions, and other items, making his job a living nightmare. Then there’s the big lions and the miniature cowboys and gladiators that battle all the time in favor of expanding their empires. And let’s not forget Attila the Hun who’s a misunderstood heathen that benefits from Larry’s psychoanalysis.

While Larry battles to save his job (not to mention his very life), he also struggles to maintain a working relationship with his son Nick (Jake Cherry, Friends With Money) who’s losing faith in his father’s ability to be an upstanding guy with permanent employment and a permanent address.

Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt (
Robin Williams in a much more tempered role than previously seen), Larry learns to risk everything in order to save not only his job, but the fate of everyone in the museum and the financial status of the museum itself.

The fun parts are always whenever Stiller interacts with the inanimate creatures as they pop to life. His psychoanalysis of Attila the Hun is one of the outstanding moments, as is his quest to find out who the strange looking guy is who wanders the halls (we later learn that it’s Christopher Columbus). Mickey Rooney has little screen time but makes the most of it in hilarious fashion as he cold-cocks Stiller. And watching Dick Van Dyke do roundhouse kicks to Stiller’s face is something to marvel and laugh at, making one wonder how Van Dyke’s hips don’t dislocate.

Although not a very thought-provoking film, Night at the Museum will certainly entertain. You won’t learn anything, and the plot is straight out of a pat Hollywood script (with happy endings for everyone). But with the holiday season nearly passed, it’s a nice remembrance that sometimes fantasies do come true.

Click here for the Night at the Museum movie trailer!

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