Night at the Museum (2006)

Longtime readers know that we almost always watch family movies and adventure movies from the past, to give our kid a look at what entertained generations before him. I took it for granted that he’d see Night at the Museum on his own, because day cares and child cares and other families where he might play or have overnight sleepovers are more likely to have contemporary family movies on offer, and not expect kids to watch stuff in black and white, or stuff from the seventies with rotary dial telephones and chain-smoking dad characters. That’s why our son’s never asked to watch most Pixar movies: he saw them all already.

So Night at the Museum served a dual purpose for me: I did want to watch a more recent family film with him, and somehow, I managed to sneak this one in before some other family or after-school care program got there. I figured this would be as ubiquitous as the Toy Story series, but he had never heard of it and had no idea what it was. It sure is fun seeing him discover what a movie’s about. Brilliantly, this movie opens its supernatural discoveries with its biggest one: it’s the big Tyrannosaurus skeleton that comes to life first, knocking the child audience’s socks off, and then calmly adds additional layers of mayhem atop each one. He adored it.

Joining Ben Stiller in the chaos: Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and several more. I think it’s just an imaginatively good script until the third act, where the villains and their motivations are revealed and a critical eye might want to work backward and spot all the holes in the plan, but as long as you just let everything go and accept the strange – and mighty convenient – rules of Ahkmenrah’s tablet, it’s a fun and silly roller coaster.

They made two other Night at the Museum movies, and I don’t know that I’m ready to believe they’re all that essential, but I’m glad I picked this one up for my son’s own collection. It ended with him saying “Now I want to work in a museum,” which made my heart grow three sizes. That’s where I wish I worked, too.