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Night at the Museum (2006)

After the introduction, where our hero-victim Larry is recruited as a night watchman for the New York Museum of Natural History (but Not As We Know It), this starts out as a moderately-abysmal silly kid's movie where all the museum exhibits come to life and run mayhem. If you've just tuned in at random, at this point, you may feel like just tuning right out again, or staying with it simply for some mind-numbing minor entertainment. Well, I have good news for you: it is silly, but stick with it, and it gets a lot better.

Night at the Museum may start out as a kid's special-effects-spectacular, but just when you thought you'd had enough of the chases through museum corridors, the film itself actually comes to life. It develops a reasonable plot, a good few laughs, gets out of the museum into the rest of Larry's life, and most-of-all, great performances from a large number of ideosyncratic characters. Although museums coming to life aren't exactly a common formula for movies, this one is based on a very familiar Hollywood template. Presumably with all the money the studio had to find for special effects and big-name actors, the producers weren't going to take any chances, especially since they know their young audience so well.

Ben Stiller as Larry does start off as a bit of a dork, but that's actually part of the plot, as he gradually comes to understand the exhibits, and how to deal with them. His eventual heroism isn't exactly Ben Hur, but it's probably right for a kid's movie.

Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney make good villains and Ricky Gervais is in his element as Dr McPhee, the outraged museum boss. Mizuo Peck plays well the enigmatic and beautiful Sacajawea, but my favourite is Steve Coogan as Octavius, a charming centurian who just cannot stop fighting the equally miniature cowboys in the next-door exhibit.

Robin Williams competantly plays a fairly major role as Teddy Roosevelt, but I'm afraid I find him rather annoying. Whatever, kids don't.

Adults probably won't want to pay to see this film on their own, but if you have to entertain kids for a while with something a bit different (with the emphasis on "a bit"), then it's a lot better than OK. And if you're willing to suspend disbelief for a while, it does end with a series of feel-good highs.

Recommended (with the above caveats)