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Night at the Museum An Ordinary Stiller Vehicle

Published December 21, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox.
Night at the Museum Poster Night at the Museum
Night at the Museum is the story of an ordinary guy given the opportunity to be extraordinary, but the movie itself is just an ordinary Ben Stiller vehicle. It’s got some nifty special effects, but it’s still the same old shtick.

Review: Night at the Museum

Larry (Stiller) is a divorcee who can’t hold a job. A gig at the Natural History Museum seems like just another filler position, until the exhibits come to life after closing thanks to an Egyptian mummy’s curse. Larry must bring order to feuding western and Roman miniatures, wrangle wild animals and animated dinosaur bones, and thwart the sabotage of a playful monkey in order to keep getting $11.50 an hour.

This could have been an awesome thrill ride about everything that could go wrong with living museum exhibits and the one man who can stop them. There are a few scenes of wild action, but instead the film plays for the usual Ben Stiller gags: Ranting taunts against his oppressors usually complaining about his fragile emotional insecurity.

It’s such a shame because they had the perfect setup. There is an instruction manual for taking care of the museum, but the monkey tears it up, so Larry is left to his own devices. That should easily take 90 minutes to explore. They actually skim over the parts where he thinks outside the box and solves problems, in order to make room for more whining.

You have this amazing premise and the big joke is a monkey peeing on Stiller? Granted, he set up a tough act to follow with the zipper, so almost no physical shtick he does in movies compares. It’s just a lot of talking. Clearly someone decided to make this a comedy, maybe to save on special effects, maybe to broaden/dumb down the audience, but it makes the whole movie feel like a missed opportunity.

Monkeys are usually comic gold but this one is just annoying. Verbal banter is just whiny and the slap fighting is just like weak When Animals Attack footage.

When Stiller is actually interacting with the museum world, there are some exciting and funny bits. The fact that most of the miniature exhibits can only cause minor nuisances is funny, and the big animals and warlords are a genuine threat. One bit with the miniature guys interacting with a full sized world is brilliant, indeed a suggestion of the type of humor that should have permeated the whole movie. They even slipped a Brokeback joke in there.

Also, it should be called Three Nights at the Museum. If you’re going to give up the action premise of surviving the night, you don’t get to keep the cool title. They stretched it over 72 hours so they have to take the plural.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of 20th Century Fox.

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