Friday, December 29, 2006

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM - Oh, for crying out loud!

Shawn Levy, director of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, is a man I would gladly have up for crimes against cinema. He brought us those formulaic, un-funny flicks, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and JUST MARRIED. While last year's remake of THE PINK PANTHER was better than we had any right to expect it was still seven shades of wrong. Sadly, while NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is raking in the proverbial phat cash, it will do nothing to leaven Levy's sentence at the Final Day of Judgement.

The basic concept of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is known to all thanks to the fact that they started advertising it back in the Spring and used the kind of trailer that gives away the entire plot. Ben Stiller plays the archetypal Loser Dad: he can't hold down a regular job and his kid is starting to look up to the super-successful step-father. But as luck would have it, the inexorable logic of Hollywood means that the Loser Dad will show his true quality when faced with extra-ordinary circumstances. And as we all know: it's not money that matters but true grit and familial love. Which is why we get fed this formulaic bunkum every holiday...

In this particular incarnation, Ben Stiller gets a job as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Thing is, the Museum houses a spooooky gold wall-panel thing that brings all the animals, dinosaurs and statues to life every night! Cue lots of surprisingly pedestrian special effects with dinosaur skeletons, woolly mammoths and Attila the Hun chasing Stiller round the museum. There's an attempt to inject some narrative tension by having a nefarious type attempt to steal the magical wall-hanging.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM disappoints because the special effects are weak, the narrative arc is tired and there are very few out-and-out jokes. The abiding memory I'll have of this movie will be disappointment that the on-screen talent wasn't better used. I mean, for crying out loud, Ben Stiller was bloody hillarious in ZOOLANDER and DODGEBALL. Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney are comic geniuses who dominated their eras in Hollywood as THE premier entertainers. Steve Coogan's Hollywood career may be patchy but he has shown on British TV how hysterical he can be and Owen Wilson is outstanding even in terrible movies. But the biggest travesty of all is the use (by which I mean exploitation) of Ricky Gervais. He gives a sub-David Brent performance as the Museum Director - a performance that is the unfunny evil twin of his turn in THE OFFICE. Shame on them all for allowing themselves to be sullied by such a banal piece of cinema.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is already on release in India, Israel, Singapore, the USA, Mexico, Australia, the UK, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey. It opens on Jan 5th in Estonia and Venezuala, on Jan 11th on Argentina and Brazil, on Jan 18th in Hungary and Iceland and on Jan 26th in Spain. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM will be released in Italy and Sweden on February 2nd, in Denmark on the 9th, in Belgium, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Finland and Norway on the 15th. It opens in Japan on March 17th 2007.

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