DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Ben Stiller as LARRY DALEY
    Carla Gugino as REBECCA
    Dick Van Dyke as CECIL
    Mickey Rooney as GUS
    Bill Cobbs as REGINALD
    Jake Cherry as NICK DALEY
    Robin Williams as TEDDY ROOSEVELT
    Ricky Gervais as DR. MCPHEE

    Rated PG
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: Shawn Levy
    Back to DVD Review Home


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The powerhouse holiday flick “Night at the Museum” really flummoxed a lot of the critics I know. In general, these critics hated this film, dismissing it as childish, drab and full of old Ben Stiller routines that we’ve all seen before.

What those critics don’t understand is that this is exactly why the film did so well. For some strange reason, the press screenings I had access to always conflicted with something else I was doing that day, and the only advance screenings I was open for were shown in an IMAX theater – and the studio didn’t want us critics to watch the IMAX version to review. (I can only guess that this is because the special effects broke down when they were blown up from a 35mm print to the massive IMAX format.)

So, instead of getting an advanced gander at this film, I had to wait for opening day. And being right before Christmas, I had my two young sons in tow.

Ultimately, it is these kids that the film was made for, which is why the childish and goofy nature of the film is easier to swallow. After all, you put an animated dinosaur (with or without flesh and muscle) in a film, and you’ve got the demographic of young boys cornered.

The movie tells the story of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), a kind-hearted dad on a losing streak. He’s constantly trying to impress his son and live up to his ex-wife’s expectations. However, he keeps moving from job to job while he fails at a string of inventions and entrepreneurial ideas. (For example, his invention “The Snapper” fell under the weight of “The Clapper” because apparently some people can’t snap.)

Larry reluctantly takes a job as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. During his first night on the job, he learns the hard way that this museum is not normal. The exhibits come to life, and as the watchman, he has to make sure none escape or eat each other. This suddenly magical turn of events presents his son with a new fascination, and when the museum is threatened, he must rise to become the hero he has always wanted to be.

Okay, I’ll admit the story is a bit corny, and much of the Ben Stiller comedic moments are nothing new if you’ve seen enough of his films. But it’s still entertaining, and the special effects are a lot of fun. Playing second fiddle to Stiller is Robin Williams as a wax version of Teddy Roosevelt, along with Owen Wilson and Andrew Coogan as warring figurines from competing displays.

There’s nothing brilliant or groundbreaking with “Night at the Museum,” but it’s one of those high concept childhood fantasy films that will stay in your heart long after watching it. It reminds me of “Jumanji” as a family adventure.

The DVD comes in a double-disc set with two feature and commentaries on the first disc and plenty of extras on the second one. The bonus disc has quite a bit of interesting featurettes, covering the set design, monkey training, historical background, special effects and the style of director Shawn Levy. There’s also deleted scenes, a blooper reel and behind-the-scenes specials from Comedy Central and Fox Movie Channel.

My sons continue to love the film on DVD, which is a real treat. The movie made a ton of cash this past Christmas, and it is sure to break at least a couple of DVD records in the retail market. There’s plenty for the kids to enjoy, and there’s extra humor in there for the parents as well.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks; Spanish subtitles; English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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