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Shawn Levy
Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais, Kim Raver
Writing Credits:
Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Milan Trenc (book)

Everything comes to life.

Ben Stiller leads an all-star cast including Robin Williams and Dick Van Dyke in this hilarious blockbuster hit. When good-hearted dreamer Larry Daley (Stiller) is hired as night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, he soon discovers that an ancient curse brings all the exhibits to life after the sun sets. Suddenly, Larry finds himself face-to-face with a frisky T. Rex skeleton, tiny armies of Romans and cowboys and a mischievous monkey who taunts him to the breaking point. But with the help of President Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Larry may just figure out a way to control the chaos and become a hero in his son's eyes. Boasting jaw-dropping special effects and laugh-out-loud moments, Night At The Museum is your ticket to nonstop fun!

Box Office:
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$42.212 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$247.718 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 4/24/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Shawn Levy
• Audio Commentary with Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Night At The Museum (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 30, 2007)

Does it count as ironic that a Jewish actor has become the king of the Christmas blockbuster? Over two of the last three holiday seasons, Ben Stiller starred in that periodís biggest hit. First he made 2004ís Meet the Fockers, the yearís fourth highest grossing flick, and then he led Night at the Museum, 2006ís second top earning effort. Stiller took a break in 2005; his only work for the year came in his voice performance for the summerís animated hit Madagascar.

It doesnít look like Stiller will appear in any Christmas 2007 releases, which probably makes his competitors happy. Nonetheless, he should be able to ride the coattails of Museum for a while, and he deserves to do so. Unlike the abysmal Fockers, Museum offers a light, charming flick.

Divorced dad Larry Daley (Stiller) finds it hard to get his act together and keep a job. He maintains many ambitions for himself but none of these pan out the way heíd like. If he canít hold down steady work, it seems likely that heíll lose his partial custody of son Nick (Jake Cherry). Desperate for employment, Larry latches onto what seems to be an easy gig: the night watchman post at New Yorkís Museum of Natural History. He learns that heíll take over the job from retiring guards Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Gus (Mickey Rooney) and Reginald (Bill Cobbs).

Ah, but all is not as simple as it seems. Though Cecil gives Larry a long list of specifications to follow each night, Larry doesnít take this very seriously. He soon learns that he needs lots of help, as the inhabitants of the museum come to life every night. Among other problems, he undergoes attacks from a T-rex skeleton, deals with a mischievous monkey, and he tries to secure peace between two warring sets of tiny diorama figures. The flick follows all of Larryís efforts in addition to other plot complications.

Right off the bat, Iíll look at the main flaws I found in Museum. For one, no one can call it a terribly original piece of work. The film owes a significant debt to 1995ís Jumanji - and not just because both feature Robin Williams. The two flicks feel a lot alike and follow similar comedic/action concepts with all the threats to their lead characters. No, I wonít call Museum a rip-off of Jumanji, but itís a kissing cousin.

In the nerdy vein, I also want to gripe about the context of the museum itself. What kind of natural history museum is this, anyway? It scatters all sorts of historical genres without any logical framework at all. Why do we find a Civil War display in a natural history museum? Yeah, I know this takes matters too seriously for a light family comedy, but I disliked the lack of conceptual integrity; a movie shouldnít sacrifice logic just to facilitate gags.

Indeed, Museum suffers from a lot of lapses in terms of rational material Ė more than usual even for this sort of movie. Throughout the film, the viewer seems likely to question lots of story points and character actions, and these can become distractions. Granted, one goes into a fantasy like this with a pretty open mind; itís not like we can expect perfect sense from a flick about inanimate objects come to life. However, too many concerns with internal consistency appear, and these create issues.

Despite these complaints, I think Museum gives us an enjoyable experience. I usually could ignore the nagging concerns and just go with the flow. To be sure, the excellent cast help make matters work, especially in the supporting category. Museum features plenty of terrific performers both young and old. In the latter vein, our three outgoing guards are a hoot, with a special emphasis on Rooney. I never much cared for the guy, but his irrationally angry turn as Gus is a true delight. Van Dyke is also fun Ė especially when his character changes Ė and I very much like the quick cameo from Stillerís real-life mom Anne Meara.

As for younger actors, Owen Wilson makes the most of his diorama cowboy. A gruff little character with a size complex, Wilson takes a potentially silly personality and invests him with all the necessary gumption and humor. Wilson usually does well, but I think heís particularly terrific here.

Though Stiller doesnít need to stretch his acting chops as Larry, he handles his responsibilities well. Larry is a character in the Greg Focker vein, so this isnít a tough role. Nonetheless, Stiller milks his sequences for their appropriate comedic value, and he allows the audience an entry into the story. We have to dig into the outlandish tale from his viewpoint, and he does this well.

If we look at director Shawn Levyís prior efforts, we donít come away with a feeling of confidence. Levy directed catastrophes like the 2003 remake of Cheaper By the Dozen and that same yearís horrible Just Married, so I expected little from him. While Museum doesnít demonstrate a remarkable improvement in talent, at least Levy more than handles the material here. He balances the action with the comedy and only sporadically indulges in the anticipated schmaltzy lowest-common-denominator side. Levy handles the action with a mix of excitement and comedy; heís much more successful with the movieís tone than Iíd expect.

At no point will I ever refer to Museum as a great film. However, it entertains on a consistent basis and never makes the viewer feel like a sap. This is lightweight material but it usually delights.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Night at the Museum appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Virtually no problems marred this excellent presentation.

Colors became a strength. The movie boasted a warm, semi-golden tone much of the time, and all the hues looked rich and dynamic. The colors were excellent from start to finish and really looked great. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while low-light segments showed good delineation and visibility.

No issues with sharpness occurred. Shots close and wide remained crisp and concise through the movie, as I saw no concerns connected to definition. Very minor instances of jagged edges and shimmering appeared, but these werenít a distraction, and I witnessed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also failed to occur. In the end, I thought Museum looked great.

In addition, Museum boasted solid audio. The DVD featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. The pair seemed pretty similar, though the DTS mix was a little stronger. The variations werenít enough for the two to merit different grades, but I still thought the DTS edition seemed a little livelier.

Anyway, both tracks featured excellent soundfields. The many action sequences allowed for a wide variety of elements to swarm around the viewer. Critters ran about the room, while various bits like arrows zoomed across the spectrum. The tracks melded these components in a natural, dynamic manner that helped the movie come alive. Look to Larryís first night in the museum for a great audio demo sequence, though plenty of other strong sequences emerged.

Audio quality always seemed satisfying. Speech appeared concise and crisp, without edginess or other issues. Effects came across as accurate and lively. They featured good range and heft, as did the score. I really liked the sound of the music, as that side of things worked especially well. The score was quite vivid throughout the flick. I found a lot to like via these strong soundtracks.

Museum comes with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Shawn Levy, as he offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Levy discusses the projectís origins and development, the opening credits, cast and performances, sets and locations, story, pacing and cuts, effects and action, music, and a mix of other subjects.

Levy may be a fairly pedestrian director, but he offers a terrific little commentary here, just as he did for 2003ís Cheaper By the Dozen. He maintains an enthusiasm for the process and throws out plenty of good details. He even lets us know what story flaws he sees along the way, so heís not shy about relating imperfections. Levy presents a nice view of his movie in this fun, informative chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. They sit together for another running, screen-specific chat. The writers talk about their adaptation of the very short source book, how this flick dovetailed with their Reno 911!: Miami project, cut scenes, influences from real museums, and story ideas.

If you expect a lot of facts about the production, youíll come away from this chat disappointed. The writers really donít tell us a whole lot about their work or the production. Iím not wild about that fact; given the brevity of the original Museum book, I think they could have given us lots of info about their ideas and inspirations.

Nonetheless, I wonít complain too much simply because Garant and Lennon make this such a darned entertaining chat. They throw out lots of funny asides and follow a series of amusing threads. We get riffs on cannibals, chimneysweeps, and plenty of other topics that make this a consistently laugh-filled track. Although I wish it contained more data about the film, itís too much fun for me to criticize heavily.

Night at the Museum wins no points for originality or brilliance. However, it amuses on a consistent basis and gives us a lively piece of entertainment. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a pair of useful audio commentaries. Museum is a good piece of family fun.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.7619 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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