I almost made the mistake of blowing this movie off as another comedy I wasn't much interested in. If not for my wife and nine-year-old son, I might not have seen it. I say might not have because the trailers were so darn interesting.
I'm not particularly a fan of Ben Stiller's. His movies are generally hit or miss with me. I watch them with my teenagers occasionally, just to keep my coolness factor intact. But I don't feel a driving need to see his films.
However, Stiller performs wonderfully in Night At The Museum, and he's aided and abetted by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, and Carla Gugino in roles that are simple but elegant. Stiller stars as the divorced father of a young son, a boy who tries to worship his father as a hero, but who keeps getting his heart broken because his dad is a near-do-well and can't even seem to hold a job.
Larry Daley (Stiller) goes to pick his son up for the little league hockey game and hesitates about telling him he's lost his job again and will have to move. The impassioned speech between Larry's son Nick (Jake Cherry) is an emotional one that touches the heart. I felt that the father/son scenes were better in this movie than even all the moviemaking magic used to bring the exhibits to life. It all felt so honest and real.
Determined not to let his son down, Larry goes to the employment agency to get a job — ANY job. He ends up taking the position of a night guard at the museum. Although he isn't happy about the job, Larry's ecstatic that he isn't going to let his son down.
However, the job at the museum turns out to be nothing like Larry had ever thought it would be. At night, you see, all the exhibits come to life and run around the museum. Larry ends up losing his notes about what to do, then has to be saved by Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams).
One of the things that strains the credibility of the film is how much pure knowledge Larry is able to accumulate in one day before his next shift. He goes in with a plan, and it almost works.
Watching Larry fail and succeed and fail yet again is great. This is what family stories, and comedies, seem to do best. The special effects are breathtaking and hilarious. I found myself laughing again and again, sometimes over the most inane thing because it was so brilliantly executed.
I can't go into the plot much more without giving away too much. I advise buying the DVD to add to the family movie collection. Night At The Museum belongs there.