Plot: What’s it about?
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is a man with big dreams, but sadly, his visions never pan out. So he been forced to move from one failed attempt to the next, never able to find a stable lifestyle. This has taken a toll on him of course, but also on his son Nick (Jake Cherry), who is tired of having to move after each failure. His ex-wife has made this clear to him and while Larry still has his dreams, he agrees that perhaps the time has come to get a real job. A visit to an employment office gains him little however, thanks to his spotty work history, with only one potential position. The job is night security at the Natural History Museum, where he replaces three old gentlemen who used to share the shift, led by Cecil (Dick Van Dyke). Larry is a little hesitant at first, but figures it is stable work, so he lands the job in that first visit. Cecil feeds Larry a lot of information in a short time, including an instruction manual, but none of that prepared him for what happens when the museum closes. Once night comes, the exhibits spring to life, from the skeletal T-Rex to Theodore Roosevelt, each with specific needs. Larry is overwhelmed at first, but manages to survive the first night, but will this prove to be just another unfinished path?
This movie was a juggernaut at the box office, taking in almost three hundred million in the United States alone. Night at the Museum remained in the top ten earner for what seemed like ages and in fact, just a couple weeks prior to this home video edition, a theater near me still showed the movie. So what made audiences flock to this one? I had my doubts, mostly because I am not a fan of most live action family films, but I have to admit, I had a lot of fun. I saw the movie in theaters and seeing now for the second time, the fun was still there. The movie takes a concept we’ve all thought about, brings it to life in spectacular fashion, and adds in touches that enhance an already terrific premise. As overexposed as Ben Stiller has been of late, he is quite good here and a natural choice for the role. The real stars however are the various historical exhibits come to life, from the bones of the T-Rex to miniature Roman soldiers to the statues that guard the ancient tomb. The special effects are well crafted and natural, so they enhance and never distract from the main storyline. Night at the Museum is just a cool movie, one that is fun for all ages and while family friendly, never talks down to the audience. I loved the movie and while this Blu-ray version lacks some of the extras from the Special Edition DVD set, I still think this is the edition to own.
Video: How does it look?
Night at the Museum is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As expected, the movie looks excellent here, but isn’t the eye popping wonder some might think. The visuals look terrific, thanks to of course a pristine print and a crystal clear image, with impeccable detail levels. Especially in close ups detail is impressive, but even in mid-range and longer shots, the visuals shine and depth is superb. Now you won’t find superhuman detail like you would in Crank or rainbow bursting colors like in Open Season, but the natural, grounded visuals of this movie look excellent. So no, this might not dazzle the eyes at first, but the movie’s more natural visual design really impresses nonetheless.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a blend of mild action and dialogue driven audio, so the DTS HD soundtrack has a lot of potential to make use of and thankfully, it does just that. The various “exhibits come to life” sequences sound terrific, with deep impact moments and great directional presence, putting you right in the middle of it all. When the action moves more toward chases and miniature battles, the power kicks up a notch and the surrounds open up wide. The soundtrack can be loud and is quite effective, with no volume management needed. The more subdued scenes also sound fine, while dialogue is clean and offers no problems whatsoever. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As I mentioned before, the two disc Special Edition DVD set offers more supplements, but there are still a few trifles to be perused here. You have two audio commentaries to sample, the first with director Shawn Levy and the second with writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. As expected, the writers focus on the writing process, from concept to the evolution of the script to screen, while Levy offers a broader look at the production. This disc also includes a trivia track with some additional tidbits, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.