Night at the Museum

The premise behind Night at the Museum is fantastic.  At night, once everybody leaves, everything in the Museum of Natural History in New York, comes to life.  The story is reminiscent of Toy Story, but unlike Toy Story, there is no charm whatsoever here.  The movie takes a great idea and runs in nearly all the wrong directions, churning out another loud obnoxious movie.  This could have been a great movie full of charm and whimsy, but one look at director Shawn Levy's resume (The Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen) and it's obvious that this will not be the case.

Night at the Museum works best when Levy and writers Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (Let's Go to Prison, Herbie:  Fully Loaded) introduce the concept, and throw in a hapless Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, School for Scoundrels), a down-on-his-luck divorced dad who wants to be a good example to his son Nick (Jake Cherry, Friends with Money).  Unfortunately, he cannot keep a job, and this is affecting his relationship with his son.  He thinks that the job of night watchman will be easy, but the three retiring guards, Cecil (Dick Van Dyke, Curious George, Dick Tracy), Gus (Mickey Rooney, Babe:  Pig in the City, Revenge of the Red Baron) and Reginald (Bill Cobbs, A Mighty Wind, Enough) seem to think otherwise.

As soon as everybody leaves and the doors shut, Daley finds himself face-to-face with the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, taking a drink at the drinking fountain.  This leads to confrontations with Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher, Final Destination 3, Sideways), Teddy Roosevelt, (Robin Williams, Happy Feet, Man of the Year), and miniature versions of Octavius (Steve Coogan, Marie Antoinette, Tristram Shandy:  A Cock and Bull Story) and a cowboy named Jedediah (Luke Wilson, You, Me, and Dupree, Cars).  First, Daley is scared out of his mind.  After he learns a bit more about what is going on, he thinks everything is pretty cool.

And it could have been.  Instead, Night at the Museum, based on the book by Milan Trenc, opts for the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach.  Levy tries to do a lot without really doing much.  What does this mean?  Stiller runs around a lot, all of the historic figures run around and fight, but underneath all of the commotion, there's very little going on.  Levy focuses on the chaos that erupts with the newbie Daley, belatedly putting the focus on Daley and his son.  Then he throws in another lame plot line that takes away any sort of real emotion he built up earlier.  Loud does not equal fun.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG for mild action, language, and brief rude humor.

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