I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since Night at the Museum’s 2006 release. I was very intrigued by this film just by the trailer. The basic idea: a guy works in a museum, and everything comes to life. It makes for some great comedy and antics. Add Ben Stiller (Dodgeball, Walter Mitty, Meet the Parents, Zoolander), to the mix who’s delivered great comedy with a straight face., and you have comedy gold. He is so straightforward you can’t help but laugh. It was even way cooler to know that this was a children’s book by Milan Trenc. It is very loosely based on the source material and for a good reason. Like the film adaptations of Polar Express, Jumanji, and Zathura, this film adds a new dimension to its literary counterparts.
Stiller plays Larry Daley, a dreamer and a doer who yearns to invent and innovate. He’s suffered some misfortune and must come to terms with the fact that he must find a job he needs instead of getting close to his son and maintaining the trust of his ex-wife. You admire his drive and passion. You get the feeling that he has wanted to pursue his dreams his entire life but learns that responsibility requires patience. He ends up getting a job as a night guard at an unpopular museum. The funny thing is that all the other applicants have been turned down.
Daley’s life is forever changed. He is tasked with being the guardian of the Museum. He is way over his head and is reluctant to accept the role. But then again, how many jobs deal with replicated artifacts and historical figures coming to life? It’s like getting the best interactive experience into the world of history. How cool would it be to talk to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Smithsonian? Daley goes through a journey of self-discovery, which is compelling. We all have stepping stones in our life that can influence us and inspire in the next step in our life moving forward. The Museum, in a way, is showing Larry the value of responsibility, and following your dreams requires patience. Through that patience, Larry is grateful for that time in his life and in the next films to come.
It doesn’t hurt to have a mentor figure like Robin Williams, aka Theodore Roosevelt. He is genuine, wise, vulnerable, and direct, as Williams always is with his characters. It makes you laugh with glee. If you stick around for the entire trilogy, Williams is the heart and soul of the trilogy. He is always guiding Daley to greatness, and he never misses a beat. The cast is rounded out with Carla Gugino as the intern at the Museum, Ricky Gervais as the snippy, no-nonsense curator, Dick Van Dyke as the likable legend Night Guard, and Owen Wilson as the Han Solo-like cowboy Jedediah.
I like how this film can entertain and educate. There are so many great characters in this film. I love how the film shows the value of museums and the extraordinary power they have. Shawn Levy has dished out some great films from Big Fat Liar, Cheaper by the Dozen to Real Steel. He is now helping bring Stranger Things to life for the fourth time. I love listening to this guy talk. He loves film and is bursting with enthusiasm. He tells great stories with so much heart and fun and humor. Levy’s career alone knocks it out of the park, checking all of the boxes.