Thursday, January 11, 2007

Film review - Night at the Museum

When I first saw the trailer for this film I wasn't very interested. Things come alive at night? How good was that going to be? Well, G and I went out on Sunday night to the cinema, and picked this film to watch. The showing was at nine-thirty, with an audience comprised almost completely of adults, yet (probably because of the PG certificate) most of the trailers were for kids' films (Charlotte's Web, Arthur and the Invisibles*).

Night at the Museum starts in familiar territory – divorced parents with young son who loves his father (naturally), but who is a little ashamed at his father's perpetual failed schemes and ventures. Mum has a new boyfriend who is a bond trader, and is becoming a role model to the young boy. Dad (Ben Stiller), realising this possible transfer of loyalties, decides to get a proper job, and is sent by an agent to the Museum of Natural History, where there is a vacancy. Apparently, the museum is low on funds, and wants to retire its three old night guards (Dick van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs), replacing them with a single new one. Larry is taken on, and left with a torch and a stapled list of instructions, to do his job the following evening.

Of course, he discovers that the exhibits in the museum come alive at night. Animals wander around, the monkey steals his keys, the dinosaur wants to play fetch, the Western pioneers want to fight the Roman legionaries, Attila the Hun (who looks more like Genghis Khan) wants to kill him, and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) gives him manly advice. Given Larry's previous track record, at the end of the night he's convinced that he will never cope with this bedlam, and decides to quit. It is revealed that the reason for all these shenanigans is the presence in the museum of the tablet of Ahkmenra, which brings to life inanimate objects.

He's persuaded to stay, and spends the next day researching the exhibits with the help of books, the internet, and a guide at the museum, the unfeasibly attractive Rebecca (Carla Gugino), who is writing a dissertation on one of the people featured in the museum, Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck). Also revealed is the realisation that the three doddery old night guards may not be quite so kind and helpful as they first appear. How Larry sorts out the problem and manages to foil the schemes of the old guard take up the rest of the picture.

Night at the Museum is a funny film, with many laugh-out-loud moments, though it's father-has-to-face-up-to-his-responsibilities-and-learn-how-to-stick-at-things-to-keep-his-son's-respect aspect is somewhat hackneyed. Still, the CG animation is fantastic, the supporting cast (with the exception of Ricky Gervais as the museum director, who is miscast) are excellent (particularly the warring duo of pioneer Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Steve Coogan's general Octavius), Ben Stiller's tendency to over-play things is kept to a minimum, and it's not too sentimental.


* The trailer for this film, incidentally, was intriguing, with live-action and CGI animated sequences. It has an interesting cast (Madonna, David Bowie, Mia Farrow, Freddie Highmore), and was directed or produced by Luc Besson – which could be a good or a bad thing, given Besson's track record.



At Sat Jan 20, 07:14:00 pm, Blogger First Nations said...

this is the next to the last movie i ever expected you to review.
last place: jackass II

which rocks, btw.


*searches for dvd rental card*


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