Holy crap, this movie made a boat load of money for Fox when it came out around Christmas 2006, making $250 million and running second only to the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel for box office money. And to see Ben Stiller finally appear in a film that could be considered a blockbuster success was nice too. And in Night at the Museum, he gets to play Larry, night security guard in the New York Museum of Natural History.
Based on a book by Milan Trenc, the story contains man… of the same qualities of a Jumanji or even a Zathura. Larry takes over for a trio of retiring night guards (played by longtime veterans Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs) at the Museum. What he doesn’t know is that the inhabitants of the museum come to life at night, and he has to make sure that the inhabitants stay in said museum from sunset to sunrise, or else they turn into dust.
As far as the story goes, it’s not too bad, the film itself is full of CG effects to give you vital dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and whales. The supporting cast in the film is full of surprising names, with Ricky Gervais (Extras) appearing as the Museum director, Carla Gugino (Sin City) plays a volunteer, and Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting) plays Teddy Roosevelt, or at least a wax incarnation of him. Stiller doesn’t put too much of his humor into the film, because it’d certainly tank this thing, but it’s all within a comfort level for him, and combined with the direction of Shawn Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen), helps add to the overall enjoyment of things.
This is the second consecutive movie I’ve seen where I wonder about the choice of aspect ratio. Night at the Museum arrives in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen showing. Why not go to Scope to get as much of the vision as possible? Oh well, things look sharp, there’s edge enhancement, it’s not persistent, you get the idea.
You get a choice of DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, both of which aren’t too bad and include quite a bit of surround effecting and panning from front to back and left to right. Low end activity is present and overall the soundtrack falls into the “good, but not great” category.
I hate the studios’ philosophy of two-tiered disc sets with two-tiered pricing. For review purposes we received the one disc version, which contains two commentary tracks. The first is with Levy, who has spent a lot of time trying to get this production together, and discusses this and pulling together a project that is so immersed in CG. He’s a very active participant throughout the track and it’s well worth listening to. The second track is with writers Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (of Reno 911 lore), and they are a lower key pair that focus most of their attention on the script they put together.
The film is an enjoyable little movie that’s a pleasant ride through action and adventure, with a good deal of contemporary humor sprinkled in to boot. The cast turn in good performances, none of the casting choices is risky, the story is fun, and everything is well worth your time, regardless of edition (though I’d get the two disc personally). A definite recommendation to buy on this.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary
- Writers Commentary