Ben Stiller again proves why he is one of Hollywood's most bankable actors.
At 110 minutes this movie is simply too long.
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is having all kinds of problems. His ex-wife thinks he's a loser, his son is starting to have doubts about his old man, and even Larry is beginning to wonder if following his dreams is still the best course of action. So he decides to take any job he can get. This lands him the duties as a night watchmen in the Museum of Natural History. The job seems easy enough until Larry comes to realize that this place is cursed. He doesn't just hear weird noises throughout the night, he sees things that nobody could ever imagine.
In short, the museum comes alive.
Yes, you read that correctly. The exhibits come to life and suddenly lovable Larry is reliving some of the most interesting and deadly events in history. From the Civil War, to Attila the Hun, to battling a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Larry certainly has his work cut out for him. However, amidst all this chaos Larry finds out that if any of the priceless artifacts in the museum get touched by daylight they will turn to dust. So, with a little help from a replica of President Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Larry makes it his mission to preserve the museum.
Night at the Museum is an uplifting family film that shows us how sometimes, when we adjust our focus in how we believe in ourselves, we end up doing greater things than we could ever imagine.
Two commentary tracks make up this section. There is one with Director Shawn Levy and then another one with the film's Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. I chose to listen to the one with Shawn Levy only mainly because I didn't know anything about him. He discussed the "genesis" of the project, how it was based on a book and that it'd been circulating for 10 years prior. Levy talks about backing actor Dick Van Dyke when other people didn't think he could pull this role off, the camerawork from Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, and how open Ben Stiller was to changing up the script at a moments notice.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
With titles like "Shabu Shabu" and "Museum Residents Freed" these well produced scenes expand on ideas in the film. I decided to listen to these without the optional Director's commentary, mainly because at about this point in my Night at the Museum experience, I felt that Levy had told me pretty much everything that I needed to know. Based on the subject matter, which seemed to open up the characters or show how things were lensed differently, it seems that trims were made because the scenes in question weighed down the film. Certainly check these out if you have the time, but I didn't see anything here that made me jump out of my seat.
Fox has put a litany of featurettes on this DVD. They are Bringing the Museum to Life, Directing 101, Monkey Business, Building the Museum, Historical Threads: The Costumes of Night at the Museum, Making Night at the Museum and Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Night at the Museum. The titles are pretty self explanatory but what surprised me the most was how loose Shawn Levy made the set. I would have thought that everything would have been worked out (with little wiggle room), but apparently these guys showed up on the set everyday and if Ben or Shawn had a better idea than that idea took home the prize. The effects department wasn't always 100% happy with this way of working, but I think it accounts for the almost visceral feel that this movie has.
The Director's Vision Comes Alive - Storyboard-to-Screen Comparison
Fox Movie Channel Presents Featurettes
Two of these are on this DVD. They are Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School. I checked out the Making A Scene segment a little bit, but it was essentially the same deal as on the other featurettes. I loved the Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School piece because I felt it gave the students that Levy was talking to a wake-up call to the realities of the movie business. He talks about how his "soft," student film "Broken Record" opened a lot of doors for him, and how you never know who or what is going to help your career. He speaks in very pragmatic terms and it's refreshing because so many Directors talk about achieving success without really saying how they did it.
Reunite with Rexy DVD-ROM Game
1.85:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. This film looked quite good. I know that it is coming out in Blu-ray but I was impressed with the Standard DVD transfer. The picture looks like it has held up well, and the effects are truly astonishing. At no point in looking at this movie did anything seem fake. In fact, the supplemental features sort of hurt the film in this regard, especially when we see Ben Stiller being pull every which way around the museum on wires. I also liked that Levy and company went out of their way to put real and fake animals in the scenes. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality and really makes everything play in one cohesive way.
Dolby Digital. English 5.1 DTS. 5.1 Dolby Surround. English and French Dolby Surround. Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. The audio on this release is perfect for a surround sound system. I made it a point to watch it on a home theater set up because I just knew the viewing experience would pull me into the film. Once things get going and pandemonium is running rampant throughout the museum, the movie simply go to a whole other level. I don't recall being this taken in by the audio since I watched Jurassic Park in movie theater.
The front cover of this two disc set features a shot of Ben Stiller shining his flashlight around the museum. If you turn this cover (which slips over the amaray DVD case) suddenly the characters from the movie appear behind him. The back cover serves up a tiny description of this film, a shot of the Tyrannosaurus eating the Special Features list, and a some system specs. Fox has done a very good job of making this release stand out, but something tells me that consumers haven't forgotten about this film that they pushed to mega high theatrical grosses.
My only complaint with Night at the Museum is that I feel for a children's film it is a tad too long. The subject matter is light but at the same time this movie is filled with a solid message and great effects. It isn't like Larry's life becomes perfect at the end of this film. Despite how family friendly this movie plays it doesn't soften the blow of Larry's life. However, in seeing him take care of the museum we get to see a man become responsible. Stiller has Larry grow up but not abandon everything that he is. Also, this film showcases some of Ben Stiller's best physical comedy. It is easy to see why audiences like him. He puts forth a brand of humor that older audiences seem to like, yet he falls over himself enough to make the younger audience members laugh.
While there aren't any real surprises with Night at the Museum, this movie works because, like it's main character, it doesn't ever deviate from being what it ultimately is.
Night at the Museum was released October 20, 2006.