Night At The Museum is a disappointing foray into the family-entertainment genre for its star Ben Stiller,” writes Screen Daily‘s Ed Lawrenson — a bad omen given this trade rag’s well-known tendency to run softball and/or turn-the-other-cheek reviews if at all possible. The rule of thumb is that if your film gets panned by Screen Daily, you’re probably going to get totally creamed by the tougher critics.
“Unlike the magical artifacts it revolves around, Museum is a holiday feature — based on a children’s picture book about a security guard in a museum where the inanimate exhibits come to life after-hours — that shows only occasional signs of vitality, despite a cast of well-known comic talent and some inventive CG work.
“An underwhelming if competently crafted family film, Night feels more suited for the DVD market, particularly among parents who read their children Milan Trenc‘s source book. [It] has some messy fun with its premise, but Shawn Levy‘s workman-like direction lacks flair. Overall the film lacks the visual imagination of, say, Joe Dante‘s Small Soldiers or the novelty value of Jumanji — two other family films where CG brings to life inanimate objects — ensuring that the effects quickly grow repetitive.
“Stiller is uncharacteristically awkward as Daley. With the exception of his vocal performance in Madagascar, Night At The Museum is his first kids’ film. His comic style, which tends to be deadpan and low-key, isn’t well suited to the genre, and he struggles to convince in the many slapstick scenes. Robin Williams brings some much needed exuberance as Teddy Roosevelt, and makes one wish that a more physically expressive actor had been cast in the lead.
“The supporting cast has an impressive roster of comic performers, including Brits Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais (who brings smarmy David Brent-like incompetence to his role as the museum director), but the thin, largely unfunny script wastes their talents. Veteran actors Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney play the scheming guards, the former exhibiting a commanding lightness of touch, the latter embarrassingly hamming things up.”