Friday, May 15, 2009

night at the museum

So, this is a new feature called Blind Spots that I'm going to be doing on this blog. It'll give me a chance to write about movies or albums or whatever that I missed during their initial run. I'll write them in the style of Consumables and, ideally, this exercise of going back will help me fill in some gaps. I'll write these whenever the spirit moves me.

Night at the Museum
When this movie came out around Christmas 2006, the critical consensus was something like, "Eh, it's not bad." That's sorta how I feel about it, too -- if the filmmakers had spent just a little more time with the story, they might have really had something. Instead, it's yet another family comedy where too much of the humor comes from frantic action executed at high volumes. Of the cast, Robin Williams gives the best performance -- he dials down his excesses, and he's actually effectively poignant as Teddy Roosevelt. I haven't read the book that the film's based on, so I don't know if the big plot holes are the fault of author Milan Trenc or screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, but I would have given just about anything for the whole film just to be Ben Stiller's interactions with his onscreen son, Jake Cherry. Cherry doesn't act like your typical movie kid, thank god, and Stiller has a real sweetness in those scenes.

Still, this is just another divorced-father family film, although I'm happy there's no forced attempt to get him to reconcile with his former wife (Kim Raver) at the end to make everyone happy. And, yes, it's worth noting that Night at the Museum actually endorses the importance of knowing history -- not just the Civil War but, y'know, the whole world's. But what was most interesting was that the film's setup echoes our current financial crisis in an eerie way. Stiller needs to find a job -- any job -- as quickly as possible or he'll get evicted from his place. Meanwhile, his former wife's new husband, Paul Rudd, is a jerky Master of the Universe. Stiller refers to him as a stockbroker, but Raver corrects him -- he's a bond trader. If the movie came out now, Stiller would seem even more like the noble hero, while Rudd would be set up to inspire boos and hisses from the audience -- isn't he one of the creeps who got us into the mess we're in now?