Night at the Museum
The premise of Night at the Museum is not even bad, for a kid’s movie, that is: at night everything in the museum, from dioramas to dinosaur skeletons come to life because of an ancient Egyptian curse. Actually, it sounds a lot like Jumanji, which also starred Robin Williams back in 1995 – which was plenty of fun. Night at the Museum, having less to do with adventure and more with comedy, plays it safe and does not offer a compelling storyline or visuals or any sense of excitement. It is aimed as a Ben Stiller vehicle/Holiday season kid’s movie with lots of CGI. The truth of the matter is that it’s not funny either.
The story as it goes, is that Stiller is a underachiever, and if he doesn’t find a job in the next 24 hours, he will have to move to Queens (oh no!) and his 10 year-old son will not be leaving his Park Avenue apartment to see him every other weekend. Tragic. So he gets a job as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. The former night watchmen – Dick Van Dyke (not dead!), Mickey Rooney (not dead yet!) and some other dude – have an evil plan. This sort of movie doesn’t go for plausibility anyway, but there are more than enough moments that are baffling, mostly involving Stiller being able to keep his job after he has wrecked the museum twice.
The movie runs for over 100 minutes and there is very little going on after the first night at the museum, so it just keeps pressing the same buttons, like Stiller’s ridiculous quarrel with a monkey (which culminates in a face-slapping routine). And most of it is just Stiller fumbling around the museum, goofily playing Ben Stiller. He does not even attempt to do anything different this time, nor does anyone. Director Shawn Levy is even more faceless, and it is surprisingly Robin Williams who brings some color to the movie, playing the role of a wax figurine of Teddy Roosevelt, a sort of drill instructor for Stiller. Ricky Gervais plays the museum director, and he definitely steals the show when he’s on screen (all five minutes of it) and all the genuine laughs are for him.
Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan play miniaturized cowboy and Roman centurion, respectively, who are always fighting with each other but have to get along in face of adversities. Their relationship is uncannily given a gay subtext, with references to Brokeback Mountain, which makes one wonder whether this is aimed at the kids or their parents. There is no problem with the allusion itself, just that it’s unnecessary. Maybe it’s got to do with the idea of a happy dénouement: everyone dancing to disco in the main hall of the museum, dinosaurs, Huns and Neanderthals alike.