2.5 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 108 minutes
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Currently one of the most popular genres during the holidays is the fantasy/adventure film. Roll out your “Eragon,” your “Lord of the Rings” and make sure there’s a “Polar Express” getting you to your holiday party. Hell, add some kids and a bumbling comic actor in there too and you’ve got holiday box office genius. Sometimes…

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is down on his luck. He has ventured into countless pyramid schemes that have led his ex-wife (Kim Raver) to start thinking that he can no longer be a responsible father for their son Nick. The only way he can restore her faith in him is if he obtains a steady job. So Larry gets a job as the security guard for the Museum of Natural History to prove his worth. The catch? Every night, all the exhibits come to life. Now Larry has to band together with all of the inhabitants of the museum to discover who is stealing objects from the museum and at the same time, prove that he is a great dad.

The man behind such train wrecks as “Cheaper by The Dozen” and “The Pink Panther,” Sean Levy, directs the film. There is really nothing too extraordinary (nay, not even mediocre) to say about the directing. Almost like the film has its own rudimentary formula where you could insert any director into variable A to get the same result B (like multiplying by zero… but I digress).

Ben Stiller is at the front of the large pack of ensemble cast-ites, but with no major revelations. The problem with Stiller’s acting is that you have seen him in the bumbling zero to hero role before, and he’s not even trying to give subtle differences anymore. So, bring in as many other actors as you can slap on the screen to distract the audience from the Stiller-ness, and you get Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Mickey Rooney, Kim Raver, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Rudd, Robin Williams, and, of course Ben Stiller’s BFF Owen Wilson.

Surprisingly, at this stage in his over-the-top career, the moments that Robin Williams are in the film as Theodore Roosevelt are actually fun, mostly because of the random stuff he spouts off. However, the true scene-stealer of the film is Ricky Gervais as the very uptight museum curator, Mr. McPhee. For those of you who have seen the British version of “The Office” or “Extras”, you’re familiar with the dry wit that flows from Gervais and he is truly the highlight of the film. Sadly, Gervais isn’t the focus of the film, and he can only carry so much.

The premise of “Night at the Museum” is definitely a bit more creative than the standard family films we are used to at this time of year, but the problem is that the film is marred with many gags that are outdated and therefore feel cheap. Plus, how many times have we seen Ben Stiller get hit on the head by some object? On top of that, the ending of the movie is beyond ridiculous with severely forced sentimentality.

I do have to admit, however, that I enjoyed seeing old timers Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke drop a load of delightful quips. Also the fact that the movie is 108 minutes long is good because, with such a thin plot line, it would be extremely unbearable if it were any longer. And, in the end, this is still a film that will appeal to a wide array of people for the holiday seasons (mostly kids that drag their parents to the Cineplex after all the festivities are done with).

I guess when the holiday seasons hit; folks love their films with tons of CG, a huge cast of actors, and Ben Stiller with his lame jokes. If you have seen the promos on the television then you really are not missing much. This isn’t an extremely terrible movie, it really wants to be an original film and in a way the idea behind it actually is BUT it is just too bad the execution is so by-the-numbers and emotionally empty.

Posted on December 29, 2006 in Reviews by

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