Night at the Museum (2006) starring Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson directed by Shawn Levy Movie Review

Night at the Museum (2006)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ben Stiller as Larry Daley in Night at the Museum

Oh What a Night

A while ago I had the pleasure of doing an online movie survey where I had to watch a movie trailer for a soon to be released movie, the movie in question was "Night at the Museum" and after completing the survey I was adamant that I would see it as soon as it was released. So when "Night at the Museum" hit the big screen I rushed to see it and I'm happy I did. In recent years I have become a little weary of the sorts of movies which have been made for the younger viewer. Most of them have either a boring, unimaginative plot or been CGI animations which have a few jokes which will appeal to an older audience, but none of them have been really entertaining or original. That is until "Night at the Museum" came along, not that it is amazingly original, but it is the fact that it fuels your imagination whilst also making you laugh which ticks the boxes for me.

With the threat of eviction from his New York apartment and limited access to his son weighing heavy on his shoulders, hapless inventor Larry Daley (Ben Stiller - Meet the Fockers) decides to bite the bullet and find a real paying job. But having found out that he is unsuitable for the many jobs he would like to do, the only vacancy left available is as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, where due to budget cuts the three elderly night guards Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Gus (Mickey Rooney - Love Laughs at Andy Hardy) and Reginald (Bill Cobbs - Demolition Man) are being forced to retire so that they can be replaced by just one. But unbeknown to Larry, every night all the wax statues and miniature armies come to life due to an ancient Egyptian tableau which is on display in the museum causing mayhem unless he controls them.

Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs in Night at the Museum

The main concept behind "Night at the Museum" of statues and little figures coming to life is something of everyone's childhood fantasy where we believed that are toys had a life of their own. What "Night at the Museum" does is it takes it one step further and puts it into the situation of a museum where we get to watch historical figures from Theodore Roosevelt to Attila the Hun come to life. Of course with so many people from different historical era's being alive at the same time leads to a certain amount of anarchy, along the lines of the Roman Empire fighting the Cowboys and a Dinosaur which has a canine complex, wanting to play fetch all the time. Of course these concepts don't always work and although funny a talking stone statue which wants bubble gum did seem a bit too strange.

Of course watching wax dummies and figurines cause chaos is not enough to fuel a film and so "Night at the Museum" has some wonderful sub plots, most notably one which revolves around the retiring night guards. For these guards are well aware of what goes on in the museum of a night time but another side effect of the Egyptian tableau is that it makes these sprightly old fellows feel much younger and so they want the tableau for themselves. What I really liked was the fact that having watched the trailer I was completely unaware of this part of the film and it was a wonderful surprise. Plus, it was brilliantly executed with three film legends in the shape of Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs bringing magical performances and mirth as these old guys.

Also adding to the plot is a touching but slightly underused story surrounding the relationship between Larry and his son. I say touching because you can really feel for Larry as he begins to realise that where he was once an important role figure in his sons life, he has now become a disappointment through his lack of a real job. But sadly this storyline is never used to its full potential and at times feels like it is being skimmed over. These are just a couple of the many sub plots which feature in the film which all culminate into making a very entertaining movie.

Another high point for me was the special effects which feature strongly in "Night at the Museum". Where in recent years we have been inundated with CGI animations "Night at the Museum" is a real life film which dazzles you with special effects, such as the dinosaur skeleton rampaging through the museums halls and stuffed animals which terrorize the night guard. But what is more impressive is the mixture of miniature and full life shots, such as when Larry is taken hostage by the Cowboy figurines and then shot at by the Roman soldiers. Of course it is obvious how they managed to create these effects but they do work brilliantly, especially when you get to watch a cowboy and a Roman soldier take charge of a remote control car.

But the real high light of the film for me was the plethora of famous names both new and old, as well as British, who star in this film. Of course the lead role of Larry Daley goes to one of Hollywood's most popular comedy actors, Ben Stiller, who in my opinion puts in a faultless performance. He demonstrates that he is not just a funny guy but also a pretty good actor as he manages to make his character come to life on the screen. The scenes where he becomes aware that he is a disappointment to his son our very touching but not at all out of place with both his character or the sentiment of the movie. But it is in the comedy scenes where he really lights up the screen, such as when he is interacting with Attila the Hun or chasing a pesky monkey.

Accompanying Stiller on the screen you have the likes of Robin Williams and Owen Wilson, who although are not the main stars of the film, put in brilliant, funny performances which really keep the film moving. Add to this a British contingent in the form of Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais and you have a very good selection of young comedy actors who not only provide the film with plenty of humorous moments but also with some very good performances. But for me the real stars of the show were the Hollywood greats in the form of Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs who demonstrated that even though with a combined age of over 230 they could still hold their own against the younger stars. What is particularly great about the cast in the film is that no one seems to be trying to out do each other and steal the show. Add to this a varied range of characters and you have the basis of a very good film.

Taking the directional role is Shawn Levy who up until now I had not been overly impressed with, but he has done an exceptional job with "Night at the Museum". He has created a film which, although may be criticised by some adults for being too childish, hold on a minute this is a kids film, is in my opinion spot on family entertainment. More importantly he has tapped into his target audience and provided a film which will fuel their imagination as well as educating them with some historical facts.

What this all boils down to is that after becoming distinctly bored with the majority of films aimed at the younger audience, I am so glad that "Night at the Museum" came along. Not only is it an amazingly entertaining film, through the culmination of humour, acting and stunning special effects, but it is one which fuels your imagination. It may be far fetched, but that is part of its charm as it uses the fantasy that many of us shared as a child and helps us older ones rekindle our child like dreams. Add to this that it is educational as well as fun and you have in my opinion a must see film for young and old. I have hear some people criticize it as being too long and a little draggy in the middle, but for me the time flew by and left me wanting more, maybe I am still a child at heart.