Night at the Museum

Opens at Meridian and other theaters, Fri., Dec. 22. Rated PG. 108 minutes.

Ben Stiller—as usual, frazzled with a touch of hipster frump—is a divorced dad in need of a gig, lest his cutie-pie kid (Jake Cherry) wind up spending all of his time with uptight bond-trading New Dad (Paul Rudd, wasted in a straitlaced cameo). So Stiller's Larry takes a job as night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where things go bump in the night thanks to an Egyptian trinket that animates stuffed mannequins and waxworks and whatever. The first half-hour's too slow; the last half-hour's too manic, as if to compensate. But it's the first outing from director Shawn Levy (he of Cheaper by the Dozen and Pink Panther infamy) that actually entertains, in large measure because it is essentially a buddy pic, with Owen Wilson as a miniature cowpoke and Steve Coogan as his Roman counterpart. Stiller's almost irrelevant to the proceedings; his best scene involves a smart-ass monkey slapping him stupid, which is as dumb as it sounds. But he's boring because he has to be, lest Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) run off with Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) while Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney (not wax figures, really) get away with the goods. Yeah, it's that kind of a holiday movie. ROBERT WILONSKY

 
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