History comes alive with hilarity in 'Museum'

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2006

Night at the Museum

Rated: PG

Running length: 1 hr. 47 min.

Cast: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Rooney, Bill Cobbs

Director: Shawn Levy

Rating: PPP (out of 4)

By Susan Shinn

Salisbury Post

The boys gave “Night at the Museum” three thumbs up.

I took my son Andrew and his friends James and Seth to see the movie over the weekend. What a terrific family film for the holiday season.

Set in New York City, the movie stars the always funny Ben Stiller as Larry, a single dad whose “schemes” have never come to fruition.

He needs a job and fast. Or else he’ll be forced out of his apartment once again — a move his ex-wife Erica (Kim Raver) doesn’t think is good for their 10-year-old son Nick, played by the cute Jake Cherry.

So Larry hustles to an employment agency and meets with a counselor played by his real-life mom, Anne Meara.

She tells him she’s never seen a resume like his — and not in a good way.

But she just happens to have one job that might work — a night guard at a museum.

Larry leaps at the chance and shows up the next day to the Museum of Natural History.

There, he meets the trio he’s replacing, a group of old codgers, Cecil, Gus and Reginald, all played with relish by Dick Van Dyke, Andy Rooney and Bill Cobbs, respectively.

As Cecil shows Larry around, Larry passes the diorama room and the hall of African mammals, pronouncing the exhibits “cute” and “neat.”

Of course, Cecil neglects to mention that THE MUSEUM COMES ALIVE AT NIGHT.

Which is where the fun begins.

It’s hard to surprise movie-goers these days, but you’ve never seen anything quite like this.

Sure, there are shades of “Jurassic Park” and a pinch of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” thrown in for good measure.

It’s a whole lot of fun to watch Larry squirm as he figures out just what the heck he’s supposed to do with a museum that’s suddenly run amok.

In the nick of time, he’s rescued by the rough rider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt, played with fabulous panache by Robin Williams.

Roosevelt is full of advice for Larry, such as: “Some men are born to greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them.”

(This sounded very Teddy Rooseveltish to me, but it’s actually a quote from Shakespeare.)

Larry is not, however, impressed with Roosevelt’s rhetoric. He’s too busy trying to figure out how to get the lions back to Africa before they eat him.

The retiring guards have given him a list of mysterious instructions.

These instructions, however, are soon ripped to shreds by the “cute” capucin monkey Dexter.

At the end of a really long night, Larry doesn’t think he’ll be back.

But son Jake is way impressed with his new job.

So Larry decides to tough it out.

This movie goes to show what lengths parents will go for their children’s approval.

They say there are no small parts, only small actors.

Owen Wilson happens to be both in this film.

He steals every scene he’s in as Jed, a miniature cowboy whose group is at war with the adjacent Roman army display, led by Octavius (Steve Coogan).

“We’re men. We fight. That’s what we do,” Jed tells Larry.

Wilson has the movie’s best line, a send-up of “Brokeback Mountain.”

The actor is uncredited but clearly has a ball.

Still, Stiller is the star, and you have to give his Larry credit for finally getting things right for once. Once he figures out how to manage things, it’s a blast to watch him make his way from floor to floor.

Alas, all is not smooth sailing once the tablet of Ahkmenrah is stolen. The tablet is what makes everything come alive every night.

Larry decides to break the guards’ number-one rule: Don’t let the mummy out of the case.

We won’t let the cat out of the bag, but suffice it to say that Larry does great things and catches the bad guys to boot.

(And just let me say that Rami Malek is one hot pharaoh.)

The kids will love the action, the parents will love the one-liners and the grandparents will love Van Dyke, Rooney and Cobbs.

Thumbs up all around.

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.