Night at the Museum Movie Poster Image

Night at the Museum

Cute adventure; OK for tweens, but a little scary for kids.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will pick up a few bits and pieces about historical characters and eras -- though much of it isn't exactly textbook accurate.

Positive messages

Amid the potty humor and fast-paced antics is a message about going after your dreams -- Larry tries to inspire his son to pursue his dreams, and Larry eventually learns to try harder for what he wants, too.  Larry and his son have an uneven relationship, but it's clear that Larry means well and is ultimately a good dad.

Positive role models

Larry begins the movie as a fairly iffy role model -- he can't seem to hold a job, and his ex-wife laments his lack of focus and stability -- but over the course of the film, he learns some important things about himself and others. It's very clear that the "bad guys" have done something wrong, and justice eventually prevails.

Violence & scariness

Lots of comic crashes and falls. Repeated scenes in which soldiers and other warriors fight (shooting, explosions, fighting, swords), though none of these encounters leads to visible/lasting injuries (some charring following explosions). A little truck carrying two characters crashes and disappears in smoke and a teeny fire. Some scary moments, as when the dinosaur skeleton and Attila the Hun chase Larry. Larry and a monkey fight repeatedly: The monkey steals keys, pees on Larry, slaps Larry (who slaps back), etc. Characters with a bad motive kick and flip Larry.

Sexy stuff

Mild flirting between Larry and Rebecca; Teddy Roosevelt admires Sacajawea through his binoculars (prompting Larry to ask, "Are you checking her out?").


"Oh my god," "for god's sake," "don't be a kiss-ass," "screwed up." Gus calls Larry names ("weirdy," "cupcake," "hopscotch"); Jed calls him "gigantor," and they discuss name-calling.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will definitely want to see this much-hyped, effects-heavy adventure. 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 an effort to maintain contact with and provide some level of stability for his 10-year-old son, Nicky (Jake Cherry), divorced father Larry (Ben Stiller) needs to get a job. 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, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the message behind all of the fancy effects. 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 22, 2006
DVD/Streaming release date:April 24, 2007
Cast:Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams
Director:Shawn Levy
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 4 and 9 year old Written bymichugalug July 11, 2009

e.g. Perfect for older kids, but not for tweens

I did not at all approve of the main character slapping the monkey.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Teen, 13 years old Written bypopcornlove July 24, 2010
One of my favorites, the original night at the museum is much better than the first. While learning some random facts about history, you'll also be laughing till you cry as Lary interacts with all of the fun characters, (especially Jed and Octavious.) Some language might be a little inappropriate for the very little kids and there is some crude humour involving a slap fight with a monkey, but overall is a fun family film.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages
Parent of a 7, 11, and 13 year old Written byproverbs226mom June 5, 2009