Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. Based on the trailers this looked horrifically one dimensional and although it is in fact one dimensional that dimension is occasionally funny (and of course kid friendly). If you see it with a young human they will be happy and you won’t be angry all over. That’s a holiday miracle!
The concept of Night at the Museum is that the museum where Ben Stiller works night security comes alive at night. It’s pretty simple, so I hope you’re already with me, but if not picture monkeys jumping, little miniature Roman legions marching around, and roughrider Teddy Roosevelt on his famed horse Texas. Stiller has to adapt to this silliness and of course they weave a conflict in for dramatic effect. There is also sort of a love interest, just barely developed. It’s PG, so we don’t get anything even close to risque. Sorry dads of America.
There are three reasons the movie is getting a lofty B-. The first is Stiller. For me he still has the ability to make awkward and uncomfortable funny. His little quips and facial expressions, the same ones he’s been doing for the last decade, still work. His default expression is confused and it’s good for more laughs than you’d predict going in. Ricky Gervais also steals scenes playing the same guy he did in the original The Office. If you like the style of humor he’s peddling here you definitely need to see the British version of The Office to get the full show.
The final reason has to be the effects. Maybe I’m biased because I saw the movie in full IMAX splendor but I don’t ever remember thinking “wow, that’s super fake” which is impressive. Yes, I realize a dinosaur skeleton can’t chase things but the motions looked fluid enough that once I suspended disbelief on the premise (which you have to do or you’ll lose your mind) I bought into it being real based on how it looked.
What’s bad? Well, it’s a simple plot and the end is obviously never in doubt. There is also whole subplot with Stiller’s son that isn’t funny or effective and it drags the film down for any adult that’s ever hated an after school special. Why can’t we just be treated to a kid’s movie without a message? Must they learn all the time?
The verdict on who to recommend this to is pretty simple. If you or someone you know is in the pre teen-years this will probably work. Under double digits, even better. If you’re an adult without a kid who is wondering if this is date night or matinee worthy you’re talking kooky. This is a good kid’s movie but let’s not get crazy here. You might laugh, you might chuckle, but you’re still way too old for this lesson.