Ben Stiller’s latest vehicle finds him teaming up with director Shawn Levy (Just Married, Cheaper By The Dozen) where he plays Larry Daley, a divorced father who struggles to keep a steady job. Larry applies for a job at the Museum Of Natural History and gets stuck with the night security guard post. What appears to be a relatively straightforward job soon turns out to be anything but as the “inhabitants” of the museum, including a T. rex that just wants to play fetch, come to life. Larry finds himself enlisting Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) to help as Huns, Neanderthals, lions, monkeys, a miniature cowboy (Owen Wilson), and centurion Octavius (Steve Coogan) run riot.
Shawn Levy’s latest film certainly offers more laughs than any of his previous attempts, but much like his previous efforts there’s nothing fresh or intriguing in the plot. The film is a typical case of missed opportunities, with some potentially cool action set pieces falling flat. When the T. rex comes to life I wanted to see more than just a dinosaur that wants to play games.
A lot of characters are also not fully developed throughout the picture, which at times is extremely frustrating. For example, the previous night security guards played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs are introduced but then disappear for most of the film, appearing again later.
Ben Stiller just seems to be along for the ride. He does the best he can do with the character but he doesn’t have much to play with. However a scene where he has a slapping fight with a monkey is the funniest part of the movie. There’s strong support from both Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan, who provide most of the laughs with their squabbling characters who just can't seem to get along.
Ricky Gervais makes his Hollywood debut and unfortunately is a little disappointing. His character, the museum director, has a hilarious way of expressing himself, but after a couple of times it just isn’t funny anymore. But again the script doesn’t help with Gervais' character badly underdeveloped. Robin Williams provides some solid support but in this role struggles to be anywhere near his comedic best.
The special effects on show are fantastic and so they should be with the film costing nearly $100 million to make. But with no real engaging characters or exciting set pieces to go with the CGI work, the film falls way short of its potential.