After seeing the trailer for Night at the Museum in theaters a few years ago, I said to myself, “wow, this looks completely, and utterly unwatchable.” I was prepared to go my whole life without giving this film a chance. Then of course, I became a film reviewer, and I had to play the part of the objective (non-judgmental) reviewer. The opportunity presented itself, and I would have to put aside my preconceived notions about films that look like garbage. I’m glad I didn’t place any bets on how bad this film was going to be. I’d be eating crow right about now.
Larry Daly (Ben Stiller) is pretty much a loser who dreams big, but can’t seem to hold on to a job very long. Not having a stable gig, his ex-wife, Erica (Kim Raver) tells him to shape up or face losing his son’s affection forever. Larry’s son Nick, loves his dad no matter what, but kind of looks up to his mother’s bond trader boyfriend, Don (Paul Rudd). Don is pretty hilarious in the whole 5 minutes he’s in the film. Larry is threatened by his success and comes to terms that he has to get a new gig fast!
After receiving pity by the lady at the temp agency, Larry scores a job at the Museum of Natural History as the night security guard. As he’s showed the ropes by the Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), he gets introduced to the rest of the security crew. Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Gus (Andy Rooney) and Reginald (Bill Cobb). Oh, boy, let the old people hijinx begin! Andy Rooney is pretty hilarious, and is feisty, crabby as all hell. He looks like he’s going to bust an artery at any moment. Reginald is the voice of maturity and reason. Cecil is the “leader” of the bunch. He takes Larry on the grand tour of the museum. He gives Larry an old manual that will show him how to “survive” in the museum after hours.
As Larry is left to his own devices, he starts messing around with the PA system, air DJ’ing, scratching, singing “Eye of the Tiger,” etc… That scene made laugh out loud, because it brought back memories of what my co-workers and me do sometimes when no one is around. You’re damn right we have ourselves an air DJ battle! After he stops playing around, it’s off to do the rounds, and a giant T-Rex fossil gets involved, and tries to eat him. This is no ordinary T-Rex; this is a T-Rex who thinks it’s a dog. Yeah, it’s whimsical like that. Whimsical, but it works. Besides the T-Rex, let us count the ways that the Museum of Natural History comes to life, shall we? We have a talking Eastern Island head that loves gum, prehistoric cavemen, Attila the Hun(s), and among others, Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams). Jedidiah the cowboy (Owen Wilson) and Octavious (Steve Coogan) play miniature rivals who try to kill Larry early on before they discover the error of their ways. Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) is the lovely Native American guide and interpreter with whom the wax replica of Roosevelt loves but can’t come out and say it. Roosevelt helps Larry wrangle up everyone before sunrise, for if the sun hits any of the artifacts, they will turn to dust.
The next day, Larry almost quits, but decides not to for the sake of his son. He notices the beautiful docent Rebecca (Carla Gugino) who just happens to be working on a dissertation of Sacajawea. After Larry gets some tips from Cecil (study your history) he’s ready to tackle night two at the museum. Theodore Roosevelt explains that the cause of all of the artifacts and displays coming to life are due to the Egyptian artifact known as Tablet of Akmenrah. The tablet has literally been bringing the museum to life for over 50 years.
For such a basic premise, Night at the Museum is fully loaded in terms of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into it. Please, when watching this film, suspend your disbelief. I do think the CGI and practical effects worked really well. Stiller is his usual wacky self, I’m sure 75% of his dialogue was improvised. I will say that the film can will get somewhat hokey in parts, but what do you expect? It IS that kind of film. There is no shame in saying that I enjoyed myself.
I love low light. I have low light throughout my home. The scenes that take place inside the museum are gorgeous! Yellows, golds, browns all come through in abundance. It’s a very warm color palette that put me at ease. It was like…being home? Literally. Black levels are consistent and never crush. I will say, that indoor museum scenes, due to the warm low light, make skin tones come off a touch of golden. It’s not an issue at all, in real life, that’s exactly how one would look underneath low light. The few outdoor scenes had pretty good contrast levels; I detected no intrusive DNR, dirt, scratches, and artifacts. Considering it’s a pretty recent film, it was near reference, in my opinion.
The audio quality complements the picture quality quite nicely. The music comes in loud, crisp, and clear through the front channels without distortion or clipping. The surround channels were put to good use, and the sense of envelopment was always present, especially indoors. The LFE was tight, and gave the film that kick in the pants during the appropriate music cues. Again, just like the picture quality, it’s a near reference audio track.
They kind of skimped on the special features on this one. We’ve got 2 commentary tracks by the writers and director, the trailer in high def, and a useless trivia track. I’ve got one word for you: Meh.
- Commentary by Director Shawn Levy: Dude, this is not Citizen Kane. Levy takes himself way too seriously for what this is. No, we’re not impressed by your grand vernacular.
- Commentary by Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon: Much better. These cats know what’s up, and makes for a fun listen to.
- Theatrical Trailer in High Definition: Night at the Museum trailer in presented in High Definition.
- Trivia Track: A trivia track.
After talking all that mess about how I would never see this film, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had watching it. I had so much fun that I’m actually looking forward to checking out the sequel. *Gasp* Kids and adults of all ages should find Night at the Museum an enjoyable romp. Recommended!
Bring home Night at the Museum on Blu-ray!
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