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) playing a volunteer, and Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting) playing 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.
Night At The Museum is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an MPEG-2 codec at an average 23 mbps. This image looks very good. Everything is so crisp and clean. Colors, while not bright and overwhelming, are very solid and completely reference quality. A lot of effort went into providing tons of detailing in the sets and props, and that pays off big time with this kind of an image. Black levels are excellent, providing a rich inky quality and plenty of shadow definition. I missed this at the movies, and I did not look at the DVD, but I can’t imagine this isn’t a step up from even the box office release. You’re gonna love this image presentation.
The DTS-HD Master audio is also very nicely done. There’s a lot going on around these characters, and the greatest attention to nuance and surround placement gives you that total immersive experience I so often look for in a film of this kind. If it’s going to be a ride, it should be a full experience ride, and you’ll get that here. The score is dynamic. The dialog is always exactly where it needs to be and clear as crystal. The sub response isn’t quite what I hoped for, but it does have its moments.
There are 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.
Trivia Track: This option allows you to access various trivia tidbits while watching the film.
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.
This review features material written by Gino Sassani.