Night at the Museum
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Shawn Levy
scr Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
with Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Paul Rudd, Mizuo Peck, Rami Malek
release US 22.Dec.06,
UK 26.Dec.06
06/US Fox 1h48

Listen up, Gigantor: Wilson and Stiller

williams wilson coogan
See also:
Night at the Museum 2 (2009) Night at the Museum 3 (2014)
Night at the Museum This high-concept adventure was probably an easy sell to the studio, with its Jumanji-like plot and the opportunity to indulge in lots of whizzy effects. But more attention should have been paid to the script.

When Larry (Stiller) starts work as a night watchman at New York's Natural History Museum, he's expecting complete boredom. But the retiring former guards (Van Dyke, Rooney and Cobbs) seem a little suspicious, and on the first night he discovers why: everything in the museum comes to life after dark. Soon he's enlisting Teddy Roosevelt (Williams) to help negotiate peace between a miniature cowboy (Wilson) and centurion (Coogan), while Huns and Neanderthals run riot. Not to mention lions, monkeys and dinosaurs.

Of course, there's a big conspiracy involving a magical artefact, plus lots of father-son bonding and a whiff of romance with a museum employee (Gugino). The idea is potentially entertaining, but the screenwriters merely rely on tired cliches and underdeveloped jokes. For example, Gervais (as the museum director) has a hilarious way of expressing himself, but it's not funny after the third time. Let alone the twenty-third.

Director Levy never generates any snap of life in any of the set-pieces. It looks great, but without sharp characters it's both lifeless and pointless. And strangely unfunny. The only actors that remotely have any spark are Wilson and Coogan, and that's only due to their improvised bits of dialog. Van Dyke, Rooney and Cobbs are wasted; Stiller does what he can, but is lost in the digital bedlam.

Underdeveloped scripts are epidemic in Hollywood, where release dates are set before a word is put on paper. But no amount of glossy cinematography, starry casting and expert effects work can turn a weak story or paper-thin characters into a solid movie. There are terrific opportunities for visual gags and thrilling action here, but the writers and director never come up with anything remotely inventive. So the film feels like a waste of however many millions of dollars they spent. And of two hours of our time.

cert PG themes, language, some violence 1.Dec.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Night at the Museum andrew davis, UK: 1/5 "This film blows chunks - even Jumanji was more entertaining. The whole thing seems to be just an excuse to try out the latest cgi software with a script to match. Why it's made so much money is a mystery. Surely kids these days can't be that undemanding! Perhaps the Fantastic Four 2 teaser trailer that preceeded it has something to do with it." (30.Jan.07)

Mark Penner, Winnipeg: 2/5 "I thought the movie was mildly entertaing and not bad for the kids, but it was very disjointed and lacked any sort of plot whatsoever." (22.Apr.07)

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall