Night at the Museum
directed by Shawn Levy
(20th Century Fox, 2006)

Spend any amount of time in a museum bursting with dioramas and dinosaur bones, and the question is bound to pop into your mind: What if all this stuff really was real?

And for a movie to capture even a little of that wonder, you could do worse than Night at the Museum.

Based on the book by Milan Trenc, Night is about the misadventures of Larry Daley, night watchman, whose newest job at the Museum of Natural History lands him smack in the middle of a ring of thieves.

But that's all after he dozes off one night and awakens to find the giant dinosaur skeleton in the museum lobby is missing.

It's thanks to the mystical tablet hanging above the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Ahkmenrah: Ever since it arrived at the museum years before, it's given temporary life to everything within the building. But only at night. Once the sun rises, it's all back to wax, fiberglass and glassed-in exhibits.

Meanwhile, cowboys are fighting Roman centurions, Lewis and Clark are arguing over their map, Attila the Hun is marauding through the halls and Teddy Roosevelt is longing for Sacagawea, terrified to make the first move.

To bring peace to the museum, Larry (Ben Stiller) must, as Roosevelt says, find out what he's made of: broker truces between the Manifest Destiny railroad builders and their adjacent diorama, the Romans; keep a mischievous monkey from stealing his keys; and protect the magical tablet against menaces from inside the museum.

It's all lightweight and silliness (naturally, since the screenplay is penned by a pair of Reno 911! regulars), except for a plotline involving custody issues and Larry's son. The idea is that young Nick, often disappointed by Larry's missteps, will see his father in a new light once he spends a night in the magical museum. Trouble is, the custody scenes thud -- and Night at the Museum could have been just as magical without them.

Because, for just about any parent, becoming a hero in your child's eyes is reason enough for a movie.

review by
Jen Kopf

14 June 2008

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