Thursday, August 14, 2014

Night at the Museum (2006) Review:

Ben Stiller has been in the film industry for quite some time. Weird thing is, the man has aged nicely. He has a rounded out career of taking part in family productions all the way up to flat out adult content. He's a versatile actor / write / producer / director. Then there's director Shawn Levy. A man with a number of films under his belt that most people would consider are decent films. As for the one that really kicked his career into gear,...that was probably this one - thanks to Stiller. Before that Levy had directed a few other theatrical releases but garnered little respect. Films like The Pink Panther (2006) remake and Big Fat Liar (2002) had more viewers rolling their eyes than actually praising it. However, although this movie still has its issues, it definitely hit a high mark because it has two sequels.

Yes because a European understands you....
Going back to the start, viewers are introduced to Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) a divorced father who's having a tough time in life finding a promising career. He has a young son and his wife lives with? Is married to? I don’t know,...there's another guy who's with Larry's wife and kid. Up to this point, Larry's son is losing faith in his father. Hoping not to lose him entirely, Larry finds a job as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History. There he meets the veteran guard crew that includes actors Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs. What Larry doesn't realize is that the museum is more special than he thinks. Every night, the museum ends up pulling a Toy Story (1995) moment where all the objects in the room come to life. However it is only for the night, when the sun rises it's back to normal. My question is, apparently this phenomena has been going on for 54 years. 54 years! How did they keep this secret for so long and not a peep? Surely someone told somebody else on the outside.

This is a big hole in its story. But there a number of other issues as well. First, the back-story to Mr. Daley is very cliched. Larry is just another recycled character that has been used before. A down on his luck person finds something that changes his life forever. It is really overused. Second is communication. When Larry begins to realize about the museum's secret, several characters that do not speak the same language confront him. So how is it that later on they are able to understand him clearly if he or they still didn't learn the other person's language? The continuity is all over the place specifically with that. Last is comedy.  It's not that it doesn't work but there are times where what Stiller considers being funny, comes off more obnoxious than comical. This pretty much comes down to Stiller just being clueless in a lot of scenes. That is until he learns how to try and handle the work he's given. That's when he becomes funny.

In spite of that, what really sells this movie are the other various celebrity appearances. The old crew of guards are one. Then there's Brad Garrett who voices an Easter island head. More importantly viewers will enjoy Owen Wilson's uncredited appearance as Jedediah who constantly bashes heads with Roman emperor Octavius (Steve Coogan). Both of these two are funny especially when they are doing human related tasks because of their literal height challenge. Finally is Teddy Roosevelt played by the ever popular and manic actor, Robin Williams. Williams unfortunately does not go all out but there are tidbits of his humor that we all know and love. It was smart of the casting department to grab a hold of him. And with all these actors, their special effects counterparts do blend in nicely. Nothing looks dated after all this time, which is good.

Break it down guys!
One thing that'll stand out a lot though is the production design. Most of the set was a sound stage,...but that fooled me and probably a lot of other viewers. The set honestly looks like they filmed the inside the Museum of Natural History. Credit goes to Claude ParĂ© who would later demonstrate his talent even more in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) reboot. Lastly comes Alan Silvestri's score to the film, which quite frankly is a deviation from most of his usual work. Because this isn't an action film, Alan Silvestri's similar themes used for those kinds of sequences aren't propelled like one would think. In fact, Silvestri includes more soft tunes and a more wondrous feel to the museum like atmosphere. This is more appropriate since a museum is supposed to evoke those kinds of feelings. Well done. I do believe there was a main theme but it wasn't the most memorable but overall Silvestri had it.

Looking at its story and plot, it's a largely standard family affair. It will entertain but it's the good special effects, music and character placement of various popular actors that help make it above mediocre.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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