Night at the Museum (2006)

Rating: C+

Dir: Shawn Levy
Star: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Jake Cherry, Robin Williams

Back in Scotland, we occasionally used to visit the local museum, which included such wonders as a mummified cat and a real shrunken head. Those memories may explain why I was entertained by this – though would it be churlish to point out that this is actually several nights at the museum? Oh, hang on; it’s not “A” night or “THE” night – just “night”. My mistake. This is cheerfully mindless Hollywood entertainment, centred around…exactly what the title says. Larry (Stiller) gets a job as night guard at the museum, in an effort to prove his stability to his ex-wife and their son (Cherry).

However, due to a magical Pharaoh’s tablet, everything in the museum, from stuffed lions to miniature dioramas, comes alive after it closes; Larry has to handle the inhabitants, deal with his son, and also handle co-workers Rebecca (Gugino) and Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais). Eight hours doesn’t quite seem sufficient to fit all that in. There a feel of Bill and Ted about this, Larry dealing with everyone from Attila the Hun to Theodore Roosevelt, and a fair amount of slapstick is thrown around: Stiller doesn’t so much act as run around, being chased, slapped, bitten and beaten-up. And that’s just by the comedic capuchin monkey.

This is when the film is at its most entertaining, since the creators don’t hold back in any way, throwing celebrity guests at you round almost every corner when not physically abusing Stiller [as well as Gervais, fellow Brit Steve Coogan does best there]. Less satisfactory are any scenes where the film tries to generate any genuine emotions, such as with Larry and his son, since these scenes are entirely by the numbers. Ditto the romance with Rebecca, which is so entirely free of electricity it could be used around a oil slick without any fear. Entirely unthreatening entertainment, slickly manufactured and highly-polished.