A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Night at the Museum is a much-hyped, effects-heavy adventure that kids will definitely want to see. The effects are good (the dinosaur skeleton is especially fun), but the plot is uneven and the action hectic, with some point-of-view camerawork that could potentially startle younger viewers. The movie features spastic, cartoonish violence by the museum exhibits that come to life. This includes shooting (Civil War soldiers), explosions (miniature cowboys and miners), poison dart-shooting (miniature Mayans), chasing and hunting (dinosaur skeleton, lions), fighting, and car-crashing. Weapons include arrows, swords, guns, catapults, spears, axes. There's a repeated joke about Attila the Hun's preference for ripping off victims' limbs. Larry has an antagonistic relationship with a monkey and repeatedly disappoints his son (who acts sad) -- until the end, when he's impressed by his father's quick decision-making.
What's the story?
In NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, divorced father Larry (Ben Stiller) needs to get a job in an effort to maintain contact with and provide some level of stability for his 10-year-old son, Nicky (Jake Cherry). To that end, Larry applies to be a night guard at New York's Museum of Natural History, a job he believes will be "ordinary." So he doesn't really listen when retiring security guards Cecil (Dick Van Dyke), Reginald (Bill Cobbs), and Gus (Mickey Rooney) advise him to read their handwritten instruction manual and follow the steps exactly and in order. When Larry falls asleep on his first night, he wakes to find that an amazing change has occurred: The exhibits have come to life! The next few nights offer more of the same and a deepening relationship between Larry and the historical figure to whom he feels a particular affinity, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams). Not only must Larry find a way to bring the nightly chaos under control, he must also stop thieves from stealing treasure from the museum.
Is it any good?
Mostly cute and often spastic, this movie runs out of story early. Although the individual creatures can be entertaining, the film is repetitive and too invested in its silly explanation of how the coming-to-life phenomenon came about (something about an Egyptian pharaoh's tablet). The movie makes a cursory case for the significance of the "first working mother," Lewis and Clark guide Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), even though -- stuck behind a soundproof glass exhibit -- she's unable to speak or hear the action for much of the film. And it even promotes reading, as Larry researches all his new charges in a bookstore (apparently in one day). Entertaining as it is, though, Night at the Museum falls short of "greatness" ... not that kids will care.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the message behind all of the fancy effects in Night at the Museum. Why is it the important to pursue your dreams -- and to learn, read books, and discuss ideas as you do so?
How is Larry inspired by his new friends to go after his dreams?
Does Larry's relationship with his son seem realistic to you? Who seems more grown-up of the two? Does that change over the course of the movie?
- In theaters: December 22, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: April 24, 2007
- Cast: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams
- Director: Shawn Levy
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Misfits and underdogs
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action, language and brief rude humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.