When I first saw trailers for Night at the Museum, I quickly dismissed it as a children’s film that would be completely generic and did nothing new in its genre. After watching it, I can safely say I was completely right about everything I thought of the film…except for one thing: I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
While Night at the Museum feels like a fancy retread of Jumanji in a way, it’s quite simply just fun to watch. The story follows Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) who is about to get evicted from his apartment and his son is slowly growing more and more upset by his fathers situation in not being able to stay in one apartment for any amount of time. Seeing this, Larry gives up his dreams of becoming a business owner or inventor of things (his “Snapper” invention didn’t quite beat out the “Clapper”) and takes a job as a night watchmen at the Museum of Natural History.
The story is altogether generic, as are the characters and CGI (which is glaringly obvious at times, despite what the special features on this set lead you to believe), but the film is just a lot of fun to watch. The performances by Stiller and Robin Williams are spectacular, but I found myself laughing most at Ricky Gervais, whose scenes were always hilarious. I may be biased because I enjoyed his work on The Office and Extras so much, but Gervais’s delivery on his lines are so well-timed and superbly done (and after watching the outtakes on the second disc, it’s obvious the scenes were at lot harder to pull off than I originally thought).
Overall, between the simple fun the story entertains the audience with and the rather robust cast of current and past actors (including Bill Cobbs, Dick van Dyke and Mickey Rooney), Night at the Museum is a family friendly and all ages romp that’s entertaining from start to finish.
While there may not be much of the movie to talk about, the DVD certainly packs a heavy load. Packaged in a two-disc amaray case, this set comes with a chapter listing and a cardboard slipcase with a lenticular image that changes between the museum inhabitants being “alive” to just Ben Stiller in an empty hall. Underneath the slipcase is just art of Stiller alone in the museum, creating a rather plain but attractive cover.
Menus are fully animated with CGI backgrounds. The options are all museum themed (“Star the Tour” is “Play the Movie”) and go by relatively quick. They can be tedious at times while waiting for the animations to cycle through, but there’s nothing too foot-tappingly impatient about this menu setup.
On the first disc we get the movie, two English surround tracks (one DTS and one 5.1), two foreign language tracks (Spanish and French in Dolby Surround) and two commentaries, one by the directory Shawn Levy and another by the writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. While both commentary tracks have their fair share of information, the Levy track is the liveliest, as he’s active throughout the track, giving information on every little scene. The writers are slightly duller and offer up less entertaining facts—if you’re only going to listen to one, pick Levy’s track.
The video and audio on the transfer for this release is a bit mixed. I noticed a fair amount of compression going on in the transfer in the first part of the movie. Interiors of the museum are mostly clean and clear, but the daytime shots were kind of grainy looking. Audio was consistently strong with the full set of speakers getting a fair bit of use during the more hectic moments. As always, the DTS track is superior over the 5.1 Dolby, but not by much. Also, despite what the box says, this film is not “letterboxed widescreen”—it’s a regular anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer.
Disc two has a good two hours or so of special features thrown across it. First up are the deleted scenes, with most being rather entertaining, aside from an alternate version where Rebecca finds out the museum really does come to life at night (the director even admits this version was crap). All of the deleted scenes come with director commentary and there is a rather entertaining bit that was cut entirely from the film that had Ed Helms (of Daily Show and The Office) in it—disappointing, but I’m glad we got to see it on the DVD at least.
There is a mishmash of featurettes spread across this disc, some produced for this release and some previously aired on TV. The ones produced for this set were informative in the usual DVD featurette fashion, but the more entertaining bits come from Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy and the Fox Movie Channel Presents portions. Both are marketing tools, but the Reel Comedy has a fair share of laughs packed into it and the Fox Movie Channel portions are all informative sit downs with the director and how a scene is made. All of the featurettes are worth watching and they won’t take up too much of your time—they cover enough of the film without repeating themselves.
Also included is my favorite thing on DVDs: blooper reel! Gervais and Stiller make up the vast majority of the bloopers, although Williams gets in his share as well. My only complaint about this blooper reel is that there’s so little to it—it’s short and I know there had to be more goof ups and set hijinks than what we saw. Oh well…
Overall the dual disc set offers much more than the single disc does. The bloopers and extras are all very much worth watching, so if you plan on picking the film up when it streets, pick up the dual disc—it comes Highly Recommended.