Opens Friday December 22 NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (Shawn Levy). 109 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Ben Stiller 's public resumé looks something like this: directed zeitgeist-capturing 90s film, dated Janeane Garofalo, repeatedly declared public devotion to Beastie Boys, traded indie cred for pecuniary gain by joining the Wilson/Ferrell/Vaughn cabal.
So why is he starring in a family piece about a museum where the exhibits come alive at night? How about because Night At The Museum is better than it sounds?
Stiller plays Larry Daley, night watchman at New York's Museum of Natural History, where- yeah. Did I mention the coming to life bit? That's basically it. Yes, Larry's a divorced dad who needs a job, blah, blah, blah, but the movie's strength lies not in the details of Larry's life or watching the T. Rex play fetch. It's found in Stiller's superb supporting cast, including Steve Coogan as a Roman centurion, Owen Wilson as a cowboy and, in particular, Ricky Gervais as the inarticulate museum head.
It also helps that Stiller's left most of his rage-wad persona at the museum door; his comedy style is just off-beat enough here to keep Larry's story from being trite. And, hey, if this picture gets more kids into museums, Stiller's got my blessing to make as many frat boy flicks as he wants.