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June 5, 2007
Night at the Museum - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/20069/5/2007FoxShawn Levy
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)

What do you get when you put Ben Stiller in a movie with a bunch of crazy characters in a museum that run amok at night? Well how about a worldwide gross of around $US572 million! Not only was it a big movie worldwide but it was the second biggest movie of 2006 in America - taking in more money then movies such as Cars, The Da Vinci Code, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Superman Returns and Casino Royale. In fact the only movie released in 2006 that grossed more in America was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Impressive stuff.

The storyline in Night at the Museum isn't going to win any scriptwriting awards, but it's entertaining nonetheless. Good-hearted dreamer, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), despite being perpetually down on his luck, thinks he’s destined for something big. But even he could never have imagined how “big” when he accepts what appears to be a menial job at a museum of natural history.

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Ben Stiller is in a bit of trouble here.
During Larry’s watch extraordinary things begin to occur: Mayans, Roman gladiators and cowboys emerge from their diorama to wage epic battles. In his quest for fire, a Neanderthal burns down his own display; Attila the Hun pillages his neighboring exhibits and a T-Rex reminds everyone why he’s history’s fiercest predator. Amidst the chaos, the only person Larry can turn to for advice is a wax figure of President Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) who helps our hero harness the bedlam, stop a nefarious plot and save the museum.

I have to admit that I wasn't keen on seeing this movie at all when it came out in cinemas. Despite my love of the 1995 movie Jumanji - which has a very similar theme to this movie - and which, coincidentally, also starred Robin Williams, the trailers simply didn't appeal to me for one reason or another. I was mistaken though as Night at the Museum turns out to be a cracker of a movie suitable for the entire family. There are some parts that are rather silly (and the director even points out quite a few of the major plot holes in the movie in his commentary in case you missed them!) but with a solid supporting cast - including the tremendous Owen Wilson as Jedediah, Ricky Gervais as Dr. McPhee, the gorgeous Carla Gugino as Rebecca and the three older janitors played by Dick Van Dyke as Cecil, Mickey Rooney as Gus and Bill Cobbs as Reginald - there is plenty of talent here, and they all seem to be having plenty of fun in their roles.

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The museum is looking pretty busy!
Unfortunately this movie isn't quite given the stellar presentation we expected to see on Blu-Ray. For some reason the movie has a very warm look with actors all having a very 'red' tint to their skin tones giving them an unnatural look. This is extremely prevalent early in the movie. Perhaps this is intentional however it did annoy me a little. Fortunately as the movie progresses this doesn't seem to be so much of an issue.

Not assisting this 1.85:1 MPEG-2 encoded release is the fact that the movie has been released on a 25GB single layer Blu-Ray disc. With a runtime of 1 hour 48 minutes something has to give - besides the extras which we will get to in a few minutes. The movie generally runs at the rather low bitrate of 16-20Mbps but given that it is such a vibrant movie with plenty of movement on screen, and using the full screen I would expect this to be a bit higher. Now don't get me wrong I'd take this transfer over the DVD version any day, but our score of 7/10 for video merely reflects the quality of this transfer when stacked up against other Blu-Ray discs.

There is a moment at 32:25 when Ben Stiller's character gets shot in the face by absolutely tiny arrow - dare we say it, but on the DVD release we could barely make them out - on this Blu-Ray release they're as clear as day. Another shining example of how stunning Blu-Ray discs can appear occurs at the finale of the movie when, well I won't give too much away, when there's a chase outside through the park in the snow. Gorgeous.

One area where Fox is killing other movie studios with their Blu-Ray releases is with the audio. Using DTS-HD Master Audio the sad fact is that right now your PS3 can't decode that format, nor pass it out via HDMI cable to a receiver. Still what we do get is the 'core' 1.5Mbps DTS track which is a cracker. From subtle ambient sounds, to the thundering footsteps of a massive dinosaur to the upbeat Fat Boy Slim song 'Weapon of Choice' it is all presented superbly. Alan Silvestri's score is also quite brilliant - particularly the theme music which sounds brilliant during the opening credits as we get a tour around the museum.

So Fox, what happened to all the extras on this release? The 2-disc DVD release is choc full of audio commentaries and videos but even more concerning is the fact that the Blu-Ray release of Night at the Museum in America included a second audio commentary with co-screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, as well as a pop-up trivia track and HD trailers for several other movies including Eragon, Fantastic Four, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Why they have been omitted from our release is baffling, and very disappointing.

Commentary Shawn Levy:

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    I think I'd be running too!
    Directors commentaries aren't always the best listen however Shawn Levy has quite a bit to say about this movie. Perhaps most interestingly he doesn't mind pointing out major plot holes, or where other there were problems during production such as rewrites, or last minute set changes. Quite an interesting commentary which provides the bulk of extras on the disc.

Night at the Museum Theatrical Trailer (2:26/HD):

    The theatrical trailer for the movie in High-Definition. Audio is provide through 640kbps Dolby Digital. Strangely the trailer is presented in 2.35:1 rather then the same, 1.85:1 as the main movie on this disc.

Ice Age: The Meltdown Theatrical Trailer (2:10/HD):

    A trailer for Ice Age: The Meltdown in High-Definition with 448kbps Dolby Digital sound. A superb example of CG on Blu-Ray if you're yet to experience it!

Night at the Museum is an entertaining movie for the entire family. Having said that the specs on this disc - and we're mainly talking the extras - leave something to be desired. It's quite evident that Fox have put out this 'bare bones' release in anticipation of a 'Special Edition' at a later date. Given the higher price of this Blu-Ray disc over the DVD version, the lack of extras, and the questionable colouring of the video you're probably best of leaving this off your shopping list for now - unless you are a big fan of the movie.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.