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Museum’ fails to exhibit humor or talent

Marty Schroeder | Friday, April 27, 2007

With an all-star comedic cast including Ben Stiller, Ricky Gervais (of the British “The Office” fame), Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Coogan and Mickey Rooney, “Night at the Museum” should have been the comedic promised land. It’s too bad that director Shawn Levy (“Cheaper By the Dozen”) has wasted all of these impressive talents in this disappointing and generally unfunny film.

The script was a good original concept but uninteresting in its actual execution, and having Chris Columbus (director of the disastrous first two “Harry Potter” films) acting as producer surely didn’t help. While it is a fairly cute kid’s movie, “Night at the Museum” fails to be what it certainly could have been.

Stiller plays the disillusioned Larry Daley, a man who must find a job if he is to retain the respect of his son and ex-wife. After a series of failed business ventures and flack from his former spouse’s stock market trader husband, he takes a night-guard job at the New York museum of Natural History.

He sees the job as his meal ticket to respectability and thinks it’s easy work until he can find something better.

Easy, sure – except for the fact that the museum exhibits, wax models and everything else come to life at night and terrorize any unsuspecting person from the outside, including new night guards.

“Night at the Museum” is a film that promised zingy one-liners, fabulous special effects and some of the best comic acting Hollywood has to offer. They get a D-minus on the first, a generous B-plus on the second and an F- minus on the last. It’s kind of neat to look at for five minutes, but ultimately a horribly unfunny train wreck of a movie.

This isn’t to say that the acting is bad. Williams is convincing as the wax model of Teddy Roosevelt and Gervais – probably the most wasted actor in any film, ever – does a decent job (with what he has to work with) as the uptight museum director.

The problem is the lack of cohesive cast feeling. The characters are too much Stiller, Williams, Wilson and Coogan and not enough Daley, Roosevelt, cowboy or Roman general. Alongside these characters is a monkey that is only good for potty jokes and cheap gags.

“Night at the Museum” tries too hard to be an adult film and a kid’s film at the same time.

Fast forward to the DVD and buyers have the option of to buy a one-disc edition or two-disc “Special Edition.” If anyone wants to buy this film for whatever reason, the one disc would be the way to go – the extras on the two-disc set aren’t worth the overpriced cost and would only collect dust. If you must buy it, get the widescreen one-disc set and enjoy it for the the film alone.

Don’t waste your time with extras and money that could be used on a better movie.

“Night at the Museum” can be cute and does elicit a few muted chuckles from time to time. It’s a damn shame it couldn’t have been better – with a better director and script, its cast could have had audiences howling with laughter.

“Night at the Museum” deserves a place in an archive somewhere, and definitely not in the featured exhibit.