As far as family holiday movies go, one could do much much worse than Night at the Museum. An instantly-forgettable amalgam of father-son schmaltz and special effects, it nevertheless passes the time. Dialed-down appearances from Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan and even the normally hyper-active Robin Williams help keep play-it-broad Ben Stiller in check. The movie isn’t all that funny, but it does have an excess of magic thanks to bully work by effects house R&H, who seem to have the market cornered on photo-realistic animals. (R&H was responsible for the best effect shots in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)

The story is simple. Ben Stiller plays a divorced dad who has big dreams and small stability. He lands a job as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History in New York City where, on his first night, he discovers that an Egyptian tablet brings the exhibits to life. Trying to keep the exhibits inside the museum (they turn to dust at sunrise) is a chore, but it gives him self-confidence and brownie points with his red-headed seed. Everyone goes home happy, including a wax Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and a sexy docent (Carla Gugina) who are both in love with Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck).

The movie reminded me of the star-studded blockbusters of yesteryear like Towering Inferno which nobody pretended were anything special in the history of celluloid, but which acquitted themselves efficiently and predictably. Night at the Museum is the movie version of an average museum visit: briefly stimulating, soon forgotten.

MAKING OF:
Interview with the writers, Reno 911 co-creators
IndieLondon interview with Ricky Gervais
Interview with Richard Hollander, Former President of Rhythm and Hues
Interview with director Shawn Levy