Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, a divorced dad with plenty of ideas but little luck in seeing them through. At the urging of his ex-wife, he decides to seek a steady job, and finds himself thrust into the position of night security guard at the New York Museum Of Natural History. The outgoing security guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs) leave him some strange and dire-sounding advice before they leave for their retirement party, and Larry soon finds out what they meant: after dark, all the exhibits in the museum come to life.
There’s a lot to like here. Animals and dinosaur skeletons rampaging through the museum halls, miniature diorama Roman armies slugging it out with tiny American frontiersmen, and an Easter Island statue that loves chewing gum. Ben Stiller carries the leading role well, treading a fine line between hapless and hero, and the supporting cast are generally excellent. However, there is a lot of flab, too. Ricky Gervais’s pointless turn as the museum director could be cut almost completely, and there are a lot of meandering motivational scenes that just reiterate points already made clearly enough. If it had been twenty minutes shorter, the action/comedy blend would have been unbeatable.