Entertaining film, a mixture of comedy and adventure, truffled with special effects in practically every shot, clearly indebted to titles such as Jumanji and Zathura, a space adventure. The absolute protagonist of the film is Larry Daley (the always effective Ben Stiller), a guy who does not give a stick to the water. Divorced, with a teenage son, he is unable to find stable work. At last the employment agency sends him to the New York Museum of Natural History, where he will work as a night watchman, replacing three friendly elderly guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs), who are about to retire. The work seems simple, between skeletons of tyrannosaurs, dioramas of the Old West and of the Roman legions, wax statues of President Theodore Roosevelt or mummies of ancient Egypt. But what his predecessors have not explained to him is that, when it strikes twelve at night, all those figures come to life, by an ancient Egyptian spell.
We are facing a family film by the director of Twelve at home without great pretensions, to which a better worked, more coherent script would have been appreciated. Adaptation of a book by Milan Trenc by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, the subplots – the father who must win the trust of the son and settle down; Larry’s romance note with a guide; the true purposes of the three watchers; Roosevelt’s (Robin Williams) unconfessed love for an Indian explorer; the love-hate between a cowboy and a Roman centurion – are extremely rare, and in the end everything is reduced to a good handful of gags and a dizzying pace with very colorful shots, probably made up of ‘zillions’ superimposed layers of special effects. We do not ask for a history treatise, or a script drawn with a square and bevel, but we do ask for a little effort, not to take box office success for granted. In any case, the time is good, and one can have a good laugh. In addition, Ben Stiller takes advantage of his proven solvency for the comic genre. Along with him, the presence in a supporting role of Owen Wilson stands out, who has participated with Stiller in other comedies, such as Zoolander and Starsky y Hutch. The film was a great success in the US, where it topped the list of highest grossing films for three consecutive weeks.
Tyrannosaurus with bad milk
Director Shawn Levy decided that he had to help Ben Stiller as much as possible to get involved in the scenes where he had to act with completely computer-generated creatures. For example, he imitated the tyrannosaurus himself that was chasing Stiller, one of the creatures best recreated by the special effects department. “There is footage, literally embarrassing and humiliating, of me showing up with fake tyrannosaurus claws screaming and growling and chasing Ben down a hallway. I did it to get a realistic reaction. Then the creature was erased and computer-placed,” he explains Levy.
A trio of aces
They play the museum’s veteran vigilantes Cecil, Gus and Reginald, three true legends: Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs. It was not a premeditated decision by the director. “I did a cast for over 65s and I was extremely lucky that the three of them performed. They don’t have to do those things, but they did, and they showed me what they could do with the script. Dick Van Dyke starred in classics of the family cinema, like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang. Mickey Rooney became a young movie star in the 1930s. “When I came to Hollywood there was nothing, and since then I have not stopped enjoying like crazy,” explains Rooney. Bill Cobbs has been secondary in The color of money and numerous other titles.
Working with mom
Larry Daley gets the job at the museum thanks to a placement agency, where he is served by a mature woman. This actress has a very close relationship with Ben Stiller, since it is her mother, actress Anne Meara. Known for her character as Elisabeth Sherwood, the literature teacher from Fame, Anne Meara has more than five decades of career, in theater and television, like her husband, the comedian Jerry Stiller.
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Night at the museum – Film – 2006 – Review | Cast | Synopsis | Awards