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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Shawn Levy
Cast:
Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais, Kim Raver
Writing Credits:
Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Milan Trenc (book)

Tagline:
Everything comes to life.

Synopsis:
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!

Box Office:
Budget
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$42.212 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$247.718 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 4/24/2007

Bonus:
DVD One
• Audio Commentary with Director Shawn Levy
• Audio Commentary with Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
DVD Two
• Eight Extended/Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Bringing the Museum to Life” Featurette
• “Directing 101” Featurette
• Blooper Reel
• “Monkey Business” Featurette
• “Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy” Featurette
• “Building the Museum” Featurette
• “Historical Threads: The Costumes of Night at the Museum” Featurette
• “The Director’s Vision Comes Alive: A Storyboard Comparison” Featurette
• “Making of Night at the Museum” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School” Featurette
• Trailers
• DVD-ROM “Reunite with Rexy” Game


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Night At The Museum: Special Edition (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 4, 2007)

Does it count as ironic that a Jewish actor has become the king of the Christmas blockbuster? Over two of the last three holiday seasons, Ben Stiller starred in that period’s biggest hit. First he made 2004’s Meet the Fockers, the year’s fourth highest grossing flick, and then he led Night at the Museum, 2006’s second top earning effort. Stiller took a break in 2005; his only work for the year came in his voice performance for the summer’s animated hit Madagascar.

It doesn’t look like Stiller will appear in any Christmas 2007 releases, which probably makes his competitors happy. Nonetheless, he should be able to ride the coattails of Museum for a while, and he deserves to do so. Unlike the abysmal Fockers, Museum offers a light, charming flick.

Divorced dad Larry Daley (Stiller) finds it hard to get his act together and keep a job. He maintains many ambitions for himself but none of these pan out the way he’d like. If he can’t hold down steady work, it seems likely that he’ll lose his partial custody of son Nick (Jake Cherry). Desperate for employment, Larry latches onto what seems to be an easy gig: the night watchman post at New York’s Museum of Natural History. He learns that he’ll take over the job from retiring guards Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Gus (Mickey Rooney) and Reginald (Bill Cobbs).

Ah, but all is not as simple as it seems. Though Cecil gives Larry a long list of specifications to follow each night, Larry doesn’t take this very seriously. He soon learns that he needs lots of help, as the inhabitants of the museum come to life every night. Among other problems, he undergoes attacks from a T-rex skeleton, deals with a mischievous monkey, and he tries to secure peace between two warring sets of tiny diorama figures. The flick follows all of Larry’s efforts in addition to other plot complications.

Right off the bat, I’ll look at the main flaws I found in Museum. For one, no one can call it a terribly original piece of work. The film owes a significant debt to 1995’s Jumanji - and not just because both feature Robin Williams. The two flicks feel a lot alike and follow similar comedic/action concepts with all the threats to their lead characters. No, I won’t call Museum a rip-off of Jumanji, but it’s a kissing cousin.

In the nerdy vein, I also want to gripe about the context of the museum itself. What kind of natural history museum is this, anyway? It scatters all sorts of historical genres without any logical framework at all. Why do we find a Civil War display in a natural history museum? Yeah, I know this takes matters too seriously for a light family comedy, but I disliked the lack of conceptual integrity; a movie shouldn’t sacrifice logic just to facilitate gags.

Indeed, Museum suffers from a lot of lapses in terms of rational material – more than usual even for this sort of movie. Throughout the film, the viewer seems likely to question lots of story points and character actions, and these can become distractions. Granted, one goes into a fantasy like this with a pretty open mind; it’s not like we can expect perfect sense from a flick about inanimate objects come to life. However, too many concerns with internal consistency appear, and these create issues.

Despite these complaints, I think Museum gives us an enjoyable experience. I usually could ignore the nagging concerns and just go with the flow. To be sure, the excellent cast help make matters work, especially in the supporting category. Museum features plenty of terrific performers both young and old. In the latter vein, our three outgoing guards are a hoot, with a special emphasis on Rooney. I never much cared for the guy, but his irrationally angry turn as Gus is a true delight. Van Dyke is also fun – especially when his character changes – and I very much like the quick cameo from Stiller’s real-life mom Anne Meara.

As for younger actors, Owen Wilson makes the most of his diorama cowboy. A gruff little character with a size complex, Wilson takes a potentially silly personality and invests him with all the necessary gumption and humor. Wilson usually does well, but I think he’s particularly terrific here.

Though Stiller doesn’t need to stretch his acting chops as Larry, he handles his responsibilities well. Larry is a character in the Greg Focker vein, so this isn’t a tough role. Nonetheless, Stiller milks his sequences for their appropriate comedic value, and he allows the audience an entry into the story. We have to dig into the outlandish tale from his viewpoint, and he does this well.

If we look at director Shawn Levy’s prior efforts, we don’t come away with a feeling of confidence. Levy directed catastrophes like the 2003 remake of Cheaper By the Dozen, and I expected little from him. While Museum doesn’t demonstrate a remarkable improvement in talent, at least Levy more than handles the material here. He balances the action with the comedy and only sporadically indulges in the anticipated schmaltzy lowest-common-denominator side. Levy handles the action with a mix of excitement and comedy; he’s much more successful with the movie’s tone than I’d expect.

At no point will I ever refer to Museum as a great film. However, it entertains on a consistent basis and never makes the viewer feel like a sap. This is lightweight material but it usually delights.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

Night at the Museum appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Virtually no problems marred this excellent presentation.

Colors became a strength. The movie boasted a warm, semi-golden tone much of the time, and all the hues looked rich and dynamic. The colors were excellent from start to finish and really looked great. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while low-light segments showed good delineation and visibility.

No issues with sharpness occurred. Shots close and wide remained crisp and concise through the movie, as I saw no concerns connected to definition. Very minor instances of jagged edges and shimmering appeared, but these weren’t a distraction, and I witnessed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also failed to occur. In the end, I thought Museum looked great.

In addition, Museum boasted solid audio. The DVD featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. The pair seemed pretty similar, though the DTS mix was a little stronger. The variations weren’t enough for the two to merit different grades, but I still thought the DTS edition seemed a little livelier.

Anyway, both tracks featured excellent soundfields. The many action sequences allowed for a wide variety of elements to swarm around the viewer. Critters ran about the room, while various bits like arrows zoomed across the spectrum. The tracks melded these components in a natural, dynamic manner that helped the movie come alive. Look to Larry’s first night in the museum for a great audio demo sequence, though plenty of other strong sequences emerged.

Audio quality always seemed satisfying. Speech appeared concise and crisp, without edginess or other issues. Effects came across as accurate and lively. They featured good range and heft, as did the score. I really liked the sound of the music, as that side of things worked especially well. The score was quite vivid throughout the flick. I found a lot to like via these strong soundtracks.

We get a pretty sizable set of extras in this two-DVD set. On Disc One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Shawn Levy, as he offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Levy discusses the project’s origins and development, the opening credits, cast and performances, sets and locations, story, pacing and cuts, effects and action, music, and a mix of other subjects.

Levy may be a fairly pedestrian director, but he offers a terrific little commentary here, just as he did for 2003’s Cheaper By the Dozen. He maintains an enthusiasm for the process and throws out plenty of good details. He even lets us know what story flaws he sees along the way, so he’s not shy about relating imperfections. Levy presents a nice view of his movie in this fun, informative chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. They sit together for another running, screen-specific chat. The writers talk about their adaptation of the very short source book, how this flick dovetailed with their Reno 911!: Miami project, cut scenes, influences from real museums, and story ideas.

If you expect a lot of facts about the production, you’ll come away from this chat disappointed. The writers really don’t tell us a whole lot about their work or the production. I’m not wild about that fact; given the brevity of the original Museum book, I think they could have given us lots of info about their ideas and inspirations.

Nonetheless, I won’t complain too much simply because Garant and Lennon make this such a darned entertaining chat. They throw out lots of funny asides and follow a series of amusing threads. We get riffs on cannibals, chimneysweeps, and plenty of other topics that make this a consistently laugh-filled track. Although I wish it contained more data about the film, it’s too much fun for me to criticize heavily.

As we shift to DVD Two, the supplements split into five subdomains. Loading Dock includes eight deleted and extended scenes. Taken together, these run a total of 17 minutes, six seconds. We can watch “Alternate Opening Sequence (Extended)” (1:12), “I Need the Rent” (0:55), “Shabu Shabu” (3:53), “Presenting Rexy” (1:40), “Museum Residents Freed” (1:21), “Lewis and Clark Look for the Northwest Passage” (0:33), “Attila Therapy Extended” (4:34) and “Rebecca’s Brownstone” (2:51).

The first three give us more of a glimpse of Larry’s situation before he takes the museum job; they’re fun but not essential, though they do offer a better feel for Larry as a schmooze artist. “Rexy” just extends the scene when Larry preps his son to expect the museum characters to come to life, while “Freed” and “Clark” show more of the folks stuck behind glass; all are also amusing. I thought the existing “Therapy” scene was already too long, so the extended one doesn’t work for me. Finally, “Brownstone” shows Larry and some others as they try to get Rebecca’s help during the final act. It’s interesting as an alternate story point.

Except for “Presenting Rexy”, we can view all of the scenes with optional commentary from Levy. He gives us notes on the sequences and makes sure we know why he cut them. Levy proves enthusiastic and informative once again, so his commentary here works well. I especially like all the negative remarks he makes about “Brownstone”, a clip he presents to illustrate all the mistakes that can occur during filmmaking.

The Hall of Biodiversity gives us five components. First up we find a featurette called Bringing the Museum to Life. In this six-minute and 20-second clip, we find the usual melange of movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We get notes from Levy, visual effects supervisors Dan Deleeuw and Jim Rygiel, and actors Dick Van Dyke and Ben Stiller. “Life” covers the intersection of improvisation and effects. We hear about the challenges these two sides created and how the filmmakers worked out the problems as well as other effects issues.

The notes themselves are fine, though we hear some things Levy already covers in his main commentary. However, the bits from the set are particularly winning, especially when we see shots before they go through the effects process. Those help make this an entertaining show.

Next we locate the four-minute and 11-second Directing 101. It features an intro from Levy as he leads into a reel of his own goofy behavior on the set. We watch him as he (over)acts to demonstrate scenes for cast and crew. He’s certainly an eager young director, and it’s fun to see how he throws himself into his work.

A Blooper Reel goes for five minutes, 48 seconds. This offers pretty standard goofs and giggles, which makes it a disappointment. While I don’t usually expect much from these collections, when so many comedic talents gather, I figure we might find something more compelling than this.

For the five-minute and two-second Monkey Business, we get remarks from Levy, Stiller, and monkey trainers Tom Gunderson and Mike Alexander. We learn of the challenges presented by the interaction of the human actors and Crystal the monkey. Again, clips from the set offer the most compelling material, as they offer great glimpses of how the filmmakers got things to work. The program proves fun and informative.

Finally, “Hall” closes with Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy: Night at the Museum. Hosted by comedian Patton Oswalt, the 21-minute and 11-second program presents remarks from Stiller, Levy, and actors Carla Gugino, and Mizuo Peck. These “Reel Comedy” programs exist to sell movie tickets, so you shouldn’t anticipate much more than promotion here. Film clips heavily dominate. Some funny moments emerge due to the piece’s general irreverence, but it offers little filmmaking information.

With that we head to The Security Office and its three elements. Building the Museum runs seven minutes, 29 seconds and features Levy, Stiller, and production designer Claude Pare. We get a tour of the museum set and learn about its design and creation. Though the program layers in too many movie clips, these usually illustrate the points, and we learn more than enough to make this a useful piece.

Historical Threads: The Costumes of Night at the Museum fills five minutes, 11 seconds with comments from Levy, Peck, Pare, actors Rami Malek and Patrick Gallagher and costume designer Renee April. We find notes about the costumes and how they blend reality and fun. This is another informative piece that provides solid details about the costumes.

“Office” ends with The Director’s Vision Comes Alive: A Storyboard Comparison. The 10-minute and 33-second featurette starts with an intro from Levy as he tells us about the storyboarding process. From there we get movie-to-boards comparisons for scenes: “Meet Rexy”, “The Hall of African Mammals”, and “The Diorama Room”. This offers a good way to check out the planned shots versus the final material.

Within Stage Coach, we get four pieces. Making of Night at the Museum runs 11 minutes, 44 seconds and includes Levy, Stiller, Williams, Van Dyke, Gugino, and actors Mickey Rooney and Ricky Gervais. We get a synopsis of story and characters before we launch into cast and performances, While it suffers from general fluffiness, we get enough good outtakes and behind the scenes shots to make “Making” watchable. Don’t expect a serious documentary, though, as the emphasis here is on a puffy look at the performers.

Two similar components arrive next. Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene goes for 10 minutes, eight seconds, while Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School fills 25 minutes, 21 seconds. “Scene” presents Levy, Stiller, Van Dyke, associate producer Ellen M. Somers, and editor Don Zimmerman. “Scene” looks at creating Larry’s first night in the museum, with an emphasis on Rexy’s introduction. The show views the various elements that make up the shots. It provides a solid examination of the different pieces and allows us to discover a tight take on the subject.

“School” includes a chat between Levy and film school students David Kalisher, Mark Stern and Sarah Davidson. The program looks at Levy’s career and path to directing. He also provides lots of lessons about the work and the business to the students. Though it never proves particularly deep or hard-hitting, “School” gives us a moderately interesting look at the “breaking into the business” side of things. It’s worth a glimpse.

By the way, am I the only one astounded to learn that Levy – who looks like he’s about 25 – was classmates with Paul Giamatti, a guy in his late thirties who seems to be more than a decade older than that.

Trailers presents four clips. We get both teaser and theatrical ads for Museum as well as promos for Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Dolittle remake and Robots.

Rexy concludes the set – if you have a DVD-ROM drive, that is. Those folks can play the Reunite with Rexy Game. It presents a pretty easy set of challenges that create a modest diversion, but it’s not anything special.

Night at the Museum wins no points for originality or brilliance. However, it amuses on a consistent basis and gives us a lively piece of entertainment. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a varied and informative set of extras. Museum is a good piece of family fun.

Fans can buy Museum in two flavors: this two-disc Special Edition and a single DVD version. The latter offers this package’s first disc on its own. The SE retails for $5 more than the simpler set, and I think it’s worth it. If you don’t care about supplements, don’t bother, but if they interest you, drop a few extra bucks and enjoy all the nice materials on DVD Two.

To rate this film visit the original review of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main