'Night at the Museum'

HOLLYWOOD -- Someone had a terrific idea to make a movie from the MilanTrenc children's book "The Night at the Museum," in which the displaysat a natural history museum come to life at night. But at 32 pages, itwould require some imaginative fleshing out.

Unfortunately, the ideas seem to have dried up after someone decided todrop an article and retitle it "Night at the Museum." The resultingfilm, a tedious family comedy starring Ben Stiller as a luckless dreamernamed Larry Daley, tacks on an uninspired back story and a ton ofspecial effects but never engages.

The inventor of an ill-fated device called the Snapper -- lights go onand off at the snap of your fingers -- Larry is on the verge of beingevicted from his apartment when he takes a job as a night watchman atthe museum. He sees it as a last chance to prove himself to his ex-wife(Kim Raver) and young son (Jake Cherry), who has decided he wants to bea bond trader like his mother's fiance (Paul Rudd).

On Larry's first night, he's left alone by the three aging guards he'sreplacing -- played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs --and soon finds himself chased down the hallways by the very livelyskeleton of a T-Rex. Because the character of Larry is never reallydeveloped, the stakes are never high enough for us to be invested in theoutcome. The bulk of the movie is a series of sight gags and set piecesthat wreak much havoc but little else.

The presence of funny men Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt, Owen Wilsonas a cowboy named Jedediah, Steve Coogan as Roman Emperor Octavius andRicky Gervais as the pretentious museum director adds humor, but it'snot enough to keep the film from dragging, even during its frantic lasthalf-hour.

Directed by Shawn Levy with an emphasis on mayhem over anythingresembling an interesting story, the movie was adapted by screenwritersRobert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Cavemen and dinosaurs, cowboys andRoman soldiers, lions and zebras, all running amok, sounds like more funthan it is.

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