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Lively ‘Museum’ is a pleasant popcorn flick

Marty Schroeder | Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams and Steve Coogan have made much better films than this winter’s “Night at the Museum.” The caveat, however, is that the five-year-old in every family could not see most of those movies. “Night at the Museum” is easily accessible to people of all ages to watch and have a great time.

Directed by Shawn Levy, who helmed family film “Cheaper by the Dozen” and teen-flick “Just Married,” “Night at the Museum” is an attempt at blending those two genres. It is tame enough for the little brother and sister, but at the same time has just enough romance and historical trivia for the teenaged and parental crowd.

However, that creates a significant problem. “Night at the Museum” tries to fit in both categories and in the attempt does not manage to do either particularly well – just decently. The relationships established between the characters – except for perhaps Teddy Roosevelt and his surprising wax figure’s love interest – could have been fleshed out more, but that might have been more drama than the film could really handle.

The plot is a very simple one: Stiller’s Larry Daley becomes the night guard at the New York Museum of Natural History, trying to hold down an actual job after a string of inventions and start-up companies left him with empty pockets. The surprise in store for Daley is that the denizens of the museum come to life during his shift.

This includes everything from war-mongering Huns, cavemen, Teddy Roosevelt and one really pesky monkey. The film revolves around the problems Daley encounters in trying to do his job and some unexpected thievery occurring in the museum.

The best acting in this film comes in groups. Wilson, as the fast-talking head of the Old West miniature display, and Coogan, as the Roman general Octavius, bantered in what are perhaps the funniest parts of the film – minus a certain driving scene that may have been funny for little kids, but just seems ridiculous to anyone over the age of six. Next to these younger actors were some well-known faces from the previous generation of actors. Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs are the aging night guards Daley is hired to replace. They put in fine performances and prove to the audience they still know how to light up a big screen. If “Night at the Museum” is any indication, they are not done with their careers yet. Also, Ricky Gervais, the awkward boss from the British version of “The Office,” fills the role of the overly concerned museum director. There are some humorous scenes between Stiller and Gervais; however, Gervais’ comedic genius does not reach its full potential in this film.

Overall, “Night at the Museum” is a fun way to spend just under two hours without having to think too much or worry about being offended. This is a great film for kids, as well as for any person who loved museums as a child. However, it is worth waiting for it to reach the dollar theater.

What the film could have been is one thing, but the final result is something else entirely. “Night at the Museum” is worth seeing on the big screen – just not one that costs more than six dollars.

The actors in this film have certainly done more rewarding projects. However, it has already taken in over $190 million, so they will surely be pleased with the paycheck, if not an award-winning performance.