September 2009
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Billie Silvey
Night
at the Museum
Museums stir the imagination.  Probably everybody has stood at a
display in a natural history museum and imagined the figures or
animals coming to life.

Well, in 2006 it happened—in the movies at least.  That was the
year the 1993 children’s book by Milan Trenc was made into
a movie by Shawn Levy and 20th Century Fox.

Ben Stiller plays the divorced father, threatened with the loss of
his son, who is seeking a job he can stick with.  He applies to
work as night watchman at the American Museum of Natural
History at Central Park West at 79th Street in New York.  The
venerable museum, established in 1869, is the perfect setting for
the mix of history, ancient Egyptian curses and movie magic.
One of the largest and most
celebrated museums in the
world, the American Museum
of Natural History is made up
of 25 interconnected buildings
that house 46 permanent
exhibition halls, research
laboratories and a renowned
library.

The collections maintain over
150 million specimens and
overlook Central Park, the
setting of the movie’s
climactic action.
Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of the president, was one of the museumâ
€™s founders, so it is fitting that one of the first full-size historical displays to
come to life is President Teddy Roosevelt, played brilliantly by Robin Williams.

A
Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton flits down the halls.  A full-size diorama model
of Sacagawea, the native American guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition,
is played by Mizuo Peck and is the object of Roosevelt’s frustrated
affection.

Ricky Gervais plays Larry’s nemesis, museum director Dr. McPhee,
while Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs play the previous night
watchmen, who volunteer to “show him the ropes.�
With the aid of doctoral
student Rebecca Hutman
(Carla Gugino) Larry
begins to learn the history
behind the exhibits he
guards to use that
knowledge to control the
mahem.

He is thwarted by a quartet
of Neanderthals and a
mischievous capuchin
monkey.  But he is aided by
two pint-sized heroes from
scale model dioramas, the
cowboy Jedediah (Owen
Wilson, right) and the
Roman General Octavius
(Steve Coogan).
The museum itself is used for external shots, while museum displays were
reconstructed on a sound stage in Burnaby, Canada.   According to
museum employees, guests often ask to see the displays used in the
movie.

The highest grossing film its opening weekend,
Night at the Museum
expanded its success over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend and
opened in 83 additional theaters the following weekend, maintaining its
#1 position three weeks in a row.  Though it received mixed reviews, I
loved it for its evocation of the magic and mystery of museums.
A sequel, Night at the Museum:
Battle of the Smithsonian
, was
released this year.

Set in the Smithsonian in Washington,
D.C., the largest museum complex in
the world, it features several new
characters, including Amy Adams as
pilot Amelia Earhart.
Exhibits
Bible Museums