An irresistible concept meets computer-generated wonders in Night at the Museum, inspired by a 1993 children's book by Milan Trenc. Ben Stiller stars as Larry Daley, an underachieving inventor waiting for his ship to come in while getting evicted from one apartment after another for lack of funds. Larry's son needs some stability, so the well-meaning ne'er-do-well takes a job as night watchman at New York City's Museum of Natural History. What the soon-to-retire guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs) don't tell him is that an ancient pharaoh's tablet in the museum causes everything on display to come to life at night. Thus, Larry meets representations of Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, fire-worshipping cavemen, and Roman Empire soldiers, and learns to cope with an excitable T-Rex and man-eating, ancient animals. The film might have left things at that, but an added story element gives Night at the Museum some extra urgency and excitement, especially for kids: Larry becomes responsible for keeping this nightly miracle going and preventing anything in the museum from dying due to exposure to sunrise. Computer effects, as well as wildly imaginative costumes and makeup, help make the film appeal to the 8-year-old in everyone. Director Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther) works with a hugely talented cast, including Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Carla Gugino, and Steve Coogan. --Tom Keogh
On the DVD
The delightful package of special features on Night at the Museum (Two-Disc Special Edition) logically focuses on the film's many effects and unique needs. Featurettes and little narratives on various niche aspects of Night's production abound. Among them is "Bringing the Museum to Life," an overview of star Ben Stiller and the rest of the cast's vivid imaginations while they reacted to conditions and characters that were not actually present at the time of shooting. Director Shawn Levy is very much the star in this clip, as it turns out the hands-on filmmaker was unabashed about standing in for such computer-generated creations as Rexy, the T-Rex skeleton that comes to puppyish life in the feature. Levy shines, too, in "Directing 101" (which has more footage of him running around like everything from a horse to a fierce friend of Genghis Khan) and "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School," the latter a half-hour segment from the cable channels ongoing series in which film school students interview folks already in the business. (The Levy show is really a pleasure.) "Monkey Business" takes a look at the training of the little monkey whose character vexes Stillers overwhelmed hero to an extreme. A blooper reel is full of hilarious gaffes, the best of which finds Stiller and Ricky Gervais pretty much incapable of getting through a single scene without losing it. "Building the Museum" answers the question: Did they actually shoot that thing inside a real museum? (The answer: no, which makes the set even more impressive.) "Historical Threads" takes a look at costumes, while trailers, extended scenes, a commentary track by Levy, and a DVD-ROM game ("Reunite with Rexy") give a viewer lots to do here. --Tom Keogh
Night at the Museum Extras
Beyond Night at the Museum Stills from Night at the Museum
Ben Stiller leads an all-star cast including Robin Williams and Dick Van Dyke in this hilarious blockbuster hit. When good-hearted dreamer Larry Daley (Stiller) is hired as night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, he soon discovers that an ancient curse brings all the exhibits to life after the sun sets. Suddenly, Larry finds himself face-to-face with a frisky T. rex skeleton, tiny armies of Romans and cowboys and a mischievous monkey who taunts him to the breaking point. But with the help of President Teddy Roosevelt (Williams), Larry may just figure out a way to control the chaos and become a hero in his son's eyes. Boasting jaw-dropping special effects and laugh-out-loud moments, Night at the Museum is your ticket to nonstop fun!