Anyone that denies loving this film as a kid is just living in a state of denial. Night at the Museum was a classic for my generation, it came out right around the time I was heading through primary school. It wasn’t until returning to this film that I realised just how dated it had become. The charms and nostalgia of childhood never quite carry these sorts of films, but I had oddly high hopes for a film that consists of poorly adapted history lessons thrust upon an unsuspecting night watchman at a large museum. It’s not quite the brilliance you remember, but the brief and fluttering charms on display are just about enough to drag this one through the wringer fairly unscathed.
With Larry (Ben Stiller) in charge of the night watch, he soon finds exhibits coming to life and creating havoc. The greatest difficulty Night at the Museum has is when it comes to wrapping its head around the phrase “less is more”. Jokes that should work tremendously well are dragged out time and time again, we’re put through the wringer, repeating the same small handful of jokes repeatedly. They’re rather nonsensical at times, some of them are fairly enjoyable, but although their charm is beginning to fade, it’s still enough to carry the film for one final outing. I could never return to it after this one, the beats have become stale, the jokes feel relatively underwhelming, and the actual premise devolves into something rather ridiculous.
Questionable choices can be found rather frequently throughout, ill-fated jokes that have aged poorly. I question my taste in comedy back then, I remember this being far funnier than it was. But, that’s the thing about growing up, the nuanced humour of old is, in fact, just rather bland. Night at the Museum struggles under a script that does have a unique idea at heart, but ultimately doesn’t utilise its cast properly. Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson are shunted into a rather half-baked bromance that takes them nowhere. Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs find themselves in a rather predictable twist that, while it does make sense, is completely wasted. It’s a shame, another example of how a superbly talented cast of individuals can come together to make something so incredibly useless.
Ultimately though, if you’ve no nostalgic connection to this film, there’ll be very little for you to gain from a viewing of this. You endure more than you enjoy, or at least that’s how I felt, even with the added bonus of nostalgia. Night at the Museum still has a few golden moments, but they’re few and far between. They’ve lost the magic that was needed for those repeat viewings as a child. Maybe it’s because I’m old and grumpy now, but there’s just no love or charm left in me for this Ben Stiller-led piece. Not quite the nostalgia binge I was hoping for, but a completely harmless waste of time for those that need it.