NIGHT WITHOUT END
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM ★ Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry PG cert, gen release, 108 min
NIGHT at the Museum is one of those socalled high conceptmovies whereby the entire plot can be summarised in a few words: new museum security guard discovers that the exhibits come to life by night.
Playing it straight for a change and all the less interesting for that, Ben Stiller stars as Larry, a dreamer who’s out of work, divorced from his wife and intent on regaining the respect of his 10-year-old son.
Larry is hired as a night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in New York, where he begins to hear things go bump in the night. The Tyrannosaurus Rex on display has gone on the rampage, but all it wants is for Larry to throw a very large bone for it to fetch. Atilla and his Huns come to life as stock racial stereotypes, and cowboys led by Owen Wilson get in conflict with Roman soldiers under the command of Ocatvius (Steve Coogan).
Then there is the movie’s would-be inspirational figure, Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams in simpering mode) who dismounts from his horse to impart nuggets of homely wisdom. “I’m made of wax, Larry,” he declares. “What are you made of?” We know then that a sentimental bonding between Larry and his son can only be a few reels away.
The flimsy explanation is that an Egyptian pharaoh’s tablet somehow brings all the exhibits to life overnight, but the movie is devoid of any compelling coherent logic. Now, I am quite prepared to believe a man can fly, that a giant ape can travel from Skull Island to climb the Empire State Building, and that boys and girls attend an academy for apprentice wizards. But director Shawn Levy, who made the formulaic Cheaper by the Dozen movies and the recent wretched Pink Panther remake, all starring Steve Martin, fails dismally in stimulating the willing suspension of disbelief.
That is because the film appears to have been made with more money than sense. The producers throw the budget at the effects department, and at securing the services of familiar actors. The large cast also includes a humourless Ricky Gervais as the museum’s prissy director, and Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs as old codgers depicted as villains because they want to use the Egyptian tablet to lead longer, healthier lives. Bah humbug. (opens Tuesday)