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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS - Michael Dwyer

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)

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