Monday, February 19, 2007

Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum is another in a long line of films adapted from children's picture books. Think movies like Jumanji, Zathura and (croak) Polar Express. Like Jumanji, this film has its share of wild beasts, magical objects and a nice dose of suspense. It's a good-humored film that doesn't aim to high, and ,I think, reaches its mark.

Ben Stiller takes on the role of hopeless dreamer Larry Daley (a la Jack Black's Nick Vanderpark in Envy). He is a father whose belief in far-fetched ideas like "The Snapper" (a device which allows you to turn on lights by snapping your fingers) have kept him from committing to a stable job. His ex-wife gives him an ultimatum to find a job, or she will seriuosly consider decreasing his time with his son.

A job agency finds him a position at a museum, but the secretary warns him that the supervisor has turned all apllicants away. The supervisor, named Cecil, is played by Dick Van Dyke who is joined by veteran character actor Bill Cobbs and film legend Mickey Rooney. While there's nothing particularly inspired about Rooney's one-liners, I couldn't help but laugh every time he was onscreen. He cracked me up the entire time. The guy's first screen appearance was in 1930 for crying out loud!

Chaos ensues when Daley is left alone in the museum along with all this genre's cliches: he loses the item that will enable him to do his job, he screws everything up, he makes that oh-so-notorious blunder protagonists always make in these "you gotta believe" movies by expecting people to believe him when he tells them that all the exhibits come to life at night. Oh, well, you don't come to watch this movie for believability, but I sometimes wonder why screenwriters always use the same ploys. Isn't there a better way to heighten tension than to make your hero look like a numbskull? Half the time I almost want the hero/heroine to fail in these movies because they act so naieve.

I actually enjoyed the movie in spite of its predictability. Owen Wilson was funny, and Stiller had his usual "boy is this awkward?" moments that provided some laughs. The special effects were very well done, and overall it's a fun movie.
Rating: **1/2 out of ****

No comments: