Night at the Museum: Two-Disc Edition – DVD review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Shawn Levy

Written by
Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon

Cast

Ben Stiller ………. Larry Daley
Carla Gugino ………. Rebecca
Dick Van Dyke ………. Cecil
Mickey Rooney ………. Gus
Bill Cobbs ………. Reginald
Jake Cherry ………. Nick Daley
Ricky Gervais ………. Dr. McPhee
Robin Williams ………. Teddy Roosevelt
Kim Raver ………. Erica Daley
Patrick Gallagher ………. Attila the Hun
Rami Malek ………. Ahkmenrah
ierfrancesco Favino ………. Christopher Columbus
Charles Q. Murphy ………. Taxi Driver (as Charlie Murphy)
Steve Coogan ………. Octavius
Mizuo Peck ………. Sacajawea
Kerry van der Griend ………. Neanderthal #1
Dan Rizzuto ………. Neanderthal #2
Matthew Harrison ………. Neanderthal #3
Jody Racicot ………. Neanderthal #4
Paul Rudd ………. Don
Owen Wilson ………. Jedidiah (Uncredited)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Rated PG
DVD Release date: April, 24 2007

Several recent movies have been obsessed with the father-son relationship, whether they be cheesefest action flicks like Ghost Rider, mediocre family adventure pics like National Treasure, or fancy pants dramas like The Weatherman. Night at the Museum differs from those films because Nic Cage is nowhere to be seen. At least, I didn’t see him.

Actually the big difference between those films and this is that in Museum, it is the father seeking the son’s approval. Ben Stiller stars as Larry Daley, an unaccomplished dreamer who feels his role as a father is being usurped by his ex-wife’s new beau, as portrayed by Paul Rudd. In order to hold his broken family together, Larry gets a job as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. By means of a magical Egyptian slide puzzle, everything in the museum comes to life at night. But beware! if one of the artifacts is out of the museum at sunup, it will turn to dust.

That all makes sense, right? No? Oh well. Let’s focus on some good things.

Oscar Winner Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Zathura, Hellboy) serves as the Director of Photography on this picture, and as such most of the shots are nice. The film is beautifully lit. Guillermo Navarro is a wonderful person.

The film features Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, and Brad Garrett. Chances are, you’ll find at least one of those guys funny.

Night at the Museum is fairly easy to watch, and mostly inoffensive. It’s one of them there live-action “family comedies” and among the better ones in that pig race.

All right, enough with the niceness. Here are the turn-offs: It is terribly uneven, and inconsistent; the story plays like Liar, Liar-lite (which is saying something). Ben Stiller is doing his same tired Meet The Parents over-whelmed everyman schtick. The film conveys little to no genuine emotion or humanity. 24‘s Kim Raver plays Larry’s ex, and she has virtually nothing to do. The same can be said for Paul Rudd, who, like Raver, isn’t even in the third act of the movie. The lovely Carla Gugino portrays a docent/Sacajawea expert in what feels like a tacked on romantic sub-plot sans the romance. The character serves no purpose. Add to this a weird subplot about Teddy Roosevelt stalking Sacajawea, an Easter Island head who calls Stiller “dumb-dumb” (and who demands “gum-gum”), and jokes about monkey pee, and you should be able to see why the film loses some points from me.

Of course, what else should we expect from up and coming hack Shawn Levy, director of the Pink Panther remake, the Cheaper by the Dozen remake, and Ashton Kutcher vehicle Just Married? (MST3K link- Levy made his big screen acting debut in Zombie Nightmare.) Shawn Levy clearly has no idea how to tell a coherent story, despite his rigorous training directing episodes of Animorphs and Alex Mack. Improvisational bits by Stiller and company seem to linger, never ending in a logical place or even on the big joke. On a few occasions the writers competently manage to turn a scene, and Levy manages to “unturn” it. I’m not really sure if this director has spent much time in the company of human beings.

But when all is said and done, I’m sure that this is a great movie provided you are under 12 years old.

The DVD

The two-disc set offers many features and little substance. Everything has a museum kiosk theme which is consistent and unobtrusive enough to be cute.

Disc one contains the film, and comes with 2 different commentary tracks. The first is by director Shawn Levy, and it manages to be both obsequious and pretentious. The second track is done by the film’s writers, who manage to touch on just about everything but the film.

Disc two houses the bulk of the special features, most of which are 5-10 minutes long and are chocked full of clips from the movie.

First off is a section called Loading Dock. This part features a collection of deleted scenes which would’ve built Larry’s character as a dreamer and a desperate man, and afforded purpose to Gugino’s character. Included in the same section are punishingly extended sequences. There is optional commentary here.

The next section is called the Hall of Biodiversity. There is a short visual effects featurette called Bringing the Museum to Life. Directing 101 contains a bunch of clips of Shawn Levy embarrassing himself in many ways, mostly by being the practical substitute for animals to be subsequently CGIed into the film. Also included is a Blooper Reel, where one gets to see Ricky Gervais crack up Ben Stiller and a Monkey poop on Robin Williams. There is a mini-film on the monkey that played the monkey, aptly titled Monkey Business. Capping off this section is Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy: Night at the Museum which is twenty-some minutes of painfully unnecessary clip show.

Next, we have The Security Office. This section starts with Building the Museum a 7-minute special on the size of the museum set. We also get Historical threads, five minutes on costuming. This section is finished off by a 10-minute storyboard to film comparison, where Shawn Levy shows himself to be a monstrously uninteresting fellow.

Our penultimate section is called Stage Coach. It contains a making-of special which is 90 percent fluff. We get two things from Fox Movie Channel: the first, a breakdown of the first “Rexy” scene; the second, a 30-minute special on Levy’s path from film school to largely talent-free director. The film’s trailers are also housed here, along with trailers for Robots and Dr. Dolittle.

The final section on disc two is entitled Rexy, and it contains all the DVD-rom stuff which I haven’t the equipment to play.

All in all, the majority of the special features are, well, let’s just say inessential. Fluff and redundancies abound. Ricky Gervais has a few funny deleted bits, and (alum of that other Office) Ed Helms has a funny line regarding Pan-Asia in the blooper reel. Other than that, it is a quantity over quality situation.

The DVD Lounge’s Rating for Night at the Museum
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

6
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

9
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

5
OVERALL
6
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
The retail price of this set is in the $35 range. That is insanity. Rent it for your kids, and you’ll probably laugh a couple of times. Plus you get to see Dick Van Dyke dance during the end credits. He can really move for a man in his early 100s.