Night at the Museum (2006)

2010 #88
Shawn Levy | 104 mins | DVD | PG / PG

Night at the Museum is fine. And by “fine” I mean less “of high quality… worthy of or eliciting admiration” and more “good; satisfactory”.

As a film, it sets out to be entertaining and not much more. Well, in fairness, there are some moral messages in there — not least a subplot about Ben Stiller’s ex-wife and disappointed son — but they’re not really the point. Though the familial storyline clutters up the opening act (in aid of a pay-off around the climax, which almost makes it forgivable), the real point of the film’s existence is found once Stiller finally gets employed at the titular museum.

As I’m sure you know, everything in said museum comes alive at night. This results in largely comical hi-jinx. Again, these are fine — the easily-impressed will love it, the highly cynical will probably despise it, and the rest of us can sit in the middle, being adequately entertained while the film plays but require nothing else from it ever again.

The exhibits are brought to life by a magical MacGuffin, which serves primarily to inspire a climax when someone steals it. Much like the opening character backstory, it’s a little tacked on — the entire point of the film is “wouldn’t it be fun/funny if a museum’s exhibits came to life at night?”, and then whoever dreamt up turning that into a Ben Stiller vehicle realised you actually need something resembling a story to make it into a film. Perhaps it makes it a little disjointed — “here is our character-centric opening; here is the bit we actually wanted to make; here is an exciting climax” — but the tale still rattles by.

I suppose the thing to remember is that Night at the Museum is primarily a kids’ film (it’s not even a PG-13! What (non-Disney, wide-release) US film isn’t a PG-13 these days?) and, not to dumb down for them, but I’m sure it’ll keep most primary-school-aged kids suitably entertained. For those that are only young at heart, however, it’s… fine.

3 out of 5

Night at the Museum is on Film4 and Film4 HD tomorrow, Monday 27th, at 9pm.

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