Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"Night At The Museum" A Sweet Dream For Kids

We went to see “Night at the Museum” on Friday and while I didn’t regret it, I wasn’t blown away by it either.
You’ve probably heard the plot by now… Ben Stiller signs up as the overnight security guard only to find out that the museum’s contents come to life at night, mayhem ensues, and it’s his job to make sure nothing gets out and everything’s back to normal come morning. The trio of retiring guards, played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs have more on their minds though than just handing over the keys and wishing the kid luck. Stiller not only has to figure out how to keep a skeletal Tyrannosaur happy, how to keep the peace between a cowboy and his neighbour the legate Octavius, how to unite a former president and a famous First Nations guide, how to appease Attila the Hun and how to foil the schemes of the three elderly guards, but also how to hold down his job and regain his son’s confidence at the same time.
Overall, the kids in the audience, and many of the adults, got a lot of laughs out of this flick. I’ve gotta admit, I chuckled a few times myself. Ultimately, it’s very much a family-oriented movie and I can’t say it’s a bad one at that, because it’s not. It does what it sets out to do – tells a funny, heart-warming story with a lot of action and reasonable special effects.
But in the end I found it forgettable. It wasn’t funny enough, or surprising enough, or enough of a unique story that I’ll be running out to rent it as soon as my nephew’s old enough to understand it.
I think there are family movies out there that do a much better job. Take Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” or “Howl’s Moving Castle”. What about “The Incredibles”? All of these movies were very entertaining for both kids and adults and their depth of imagination will ensure they won’t date easily. Better yet, how about that 1979 masterpiece “The Muppet Movie”? When I stumbled upon this gem buried at the bottom of the shelf in a store just after Christmas, I didn’t hesitate to fork over some gift money to buy it while I could. Hensen and his crew took the well-worn trope of the American road movie and turned it into a rolling festival of Muppet wackiness filled with their signature double-layered humour. My only regret is that recent generations of kids have had only sporadic exposure to the genius of the Muppet productions and thus won’t likely know to look or ask for this classic. Case in point: during our honeymoon last year at Disneyland, my wife and I made a point of going to the park’s Muppet Theatre. Despite a good production, the joint was nearly empty and the kids who were there didn’t seem to have any recognition of what they were seeing.
Getting back to the point though… I certainly wouldn’t discourage people from seeing “Night at the Museum”, if you’ve got kids, it’ll probably be a good night out for the bunch of you. If you don’t, wait for it to air on TV where you won’t have to pay for it.
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