Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of the big family friendly extravaganza starring Ben Stiller called NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. This review is a bit weird. Some people will call it a plant because it is very positive. Some will call it a fake, because at times it is very vague. Both could be right, but I get a vibe off of the reviewer that is a little odd. Not necessarily in a bad way, but what he chooses to focus on is a little weird, so that may explain the overall tone of the review. I, for one, hope he's right on. I'd love for this flick to be a whole lot of fun, but to be perfectly honest... Shawn PINK PANTHER and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN Levy at the helm doesn't give me much confidence. Enjoy the review!!!
My name is XP-Dracon, and I hail from the days when Cinescape magazine actually had a movie review section, and was actually a popular magazine. I once gave them a "Cast Away" first-screening 'overview,' and they went ape-shit for it. Those days have passed, and now I return to bring you an 'overview' of the first screening ever for the upcoming holiday family film, "A Night at the Museum,' directed by Shawn Levy ("The Pink Panther") and starring Ben Stiller.
First off, it is very hard to have any complaints about a movie that, when upon exiting, I felt was a very solid family adventure. Much like "Jumanji," "The Santa Clause" and "The Indian in the Cupboard" in heart, "A Night at the Museum" brings to life many fantasies that we as children had about things in the museum coming to life.
Ben Stiller initially plays Ben Stiller, which was okay because he brings a certain comedic levity to the film, whereas if a more serious actor was to play the main character, the film would have felt a little too heavy-handed with the family drama. Ben Stiller is a divorced father who can't seem to handle keeping a job or bringing to life his dreams and innovations for businesses. He lands a job in the Natural Museum of HIstory in New York, where he is warned by the three old night security guards to "not letting anything in or out." Everyone who has seen the preview knows what happens, so I won't waste time with the details. I will just say what I felt about the movie.
Ben Stiller was fine, but the supporting ensemble cast was quite impressive. My favorites were Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan, as warring miniatures in charge of the western frontier miniature display and the Roman miniature display, respectively. Owen Wilson, when taken in doses, can be quite hilarious and charming, but at times may get old. In this movie, his presence is most welcome. Carla Gugino, as a museum tour guide, is quite good-looking as ever. My favorite character in the film was definitely Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt. I had done studies on Teddy in the past and had seen him portrayed by other actors (most notably Tom Berenger in "The Rough Riders"), and Williams nails it, as far as I'm concerned. Robin Williams is also a much-welcomed supporting member to the already great cast, and leaves you wanting more. Even after his many flops that he has had since his string of hits in the early and mid 90s, I'm beginning to feel another comeback for Robin. It just feels like it's that time.
Now, even with the obvious drawbacks of screenings (scratchy soundtrack, temp music, unfinished visual effects), the film was still edited very solid, and had a great flow that was consistent and entertaining after the first 15 minutes of introduction. I have seen many films in screenings in the past 11 years, and this, as well as "Cast Away" (which was actually shorter in the screening than was released in the theatre) have been the most solidly edited films of the bunch. I felt that the film only needed maybe a couple minutes trimmed down (some scenes of dialoge went a little long, mostly because of Stiller's truncated, often jumbly style of line delivery as is common in nearly all of his roles).
My only little problem I have isn't necessarily with the film, but with the storytelling style that has become popular in Hollywood lately - that is having children being brought up in broken homes. To me, it's a very sad thing when it has become so apparent that parents cannot handle keeping families together as well as families once used to be able to (the divorce rate in America far exceeds that of the marriage rate), and now Hollywood has to cater to that stigma. Ben Stiller is a divorced dad who has to watch his son be led away by his ex's 'new man.' I just have a hard time watching that kind of thing these days, and wish for the day when parents used to stay together. Funny, the same situation occurred in "The Santa Clause," and the parents were real jerks in "Jumanji." Coincidence?
A few great comedic moments abound in this film, but the real heart lies in the stimulation of the imagination, and the fantasies of our childhood. The movie will be a marvel for children to watch come Christmas time, and the skeleton T-Rex is very nice - like a big dog who wants you to throw a stick, but in this case, a bone for him to catch.
Cavemen, exploreres, Native Americans, African wildlife, miniature cowboys, Romans and Chinamen workers, talking Easter Island statues, Egyptian mummy, monkeys, pilgrims, knights and Theodore Roosevelt - a very fun family film that, much like the aforementioned films of previous holiday seasons, can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
( * * * out of * * * * )