Ben Stiller’s career can almost be paralleled with Eddie Murphy’s. Both started out providing original and edgy comedy, and were almost under-appreciated in their ways. Both finally debuted in film starting off once again providing us with a refreshing look at the comedy genre, and both have completely revamped their image starring in nothing but rehashed really bad movies, that are now leading into family films. It was really only a matter of time for Stiller. The man’s career, beyond “The Ben Stiller Show,” has been mostly abysmal. “Night at the Museum” is not the worst film out there for family entertainment, but damn, it sure is mediocre. There’s barely a single laugh in the entirety, and what chuckles do arise, come from the British nationality.
Stiller is treading over the same material yet again as this uptight and well meaning shlub who finds himself in love with a woman wholly out of his league. This is more man hating genre devices, as we have a night security guard falling for a beautiful well educated woman who works at the museum, conveniently enough. Meanwhile, the plot is just completely rehashed from previous family fare as Stiller’s Larry Daley finds his son slowly drifting away, while his wife moves on to another husband played by the criminally under used Paul Rudd. Not to mention, Daley’s son is an utterly petulant little shit who really insults and berates Stiller’s character at every turn, until he manages to prove himself. One of the better additions to this film is the supporting performance of Ricky Gervais who is utterly hilarious here.
Inserting much of his David Brent sensibilities, this man is a laugh riot whenever he’s on-screen. His failed attempts to be authoritative, his flat analogies, and his nimble threats are what make “Night at the Museum” worthy of a glance. Fans of Gervais best take heed, this man is hilarious here. And then there’s Steve Coogan who is great as the miniature Roman ruler Octavius who looks like he’s having some fun with this role, playing off of Wilson, well. Sometimes it takes a Brit to show you how comedy is done. What little class the likes of Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, and Bill Cobbs provide is undermined by a completely convoluted sub-plot involving a museum heist that makes zero sense, whatsoever.
All of which basically meanders off into a rather dull finale, and your typical characterization that you’d expect. Carla Gugino is the attractive tour guide, Stiller discovers something about himself, alliances are made, and villains are thwarted. All in one over blown mess, that would have been entertaining thirty years ago. Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan are highlights in a basically overblown and utterly mediocre family film. Stiller goes over the same material yet again, convoluted sub-plots pepper the overall narrative, and “Night at the Museum” is just a flat affair, and one I won’t have a hard time forgetting.