This Christmas, it won’t be a silent night.
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 as a graveyard-shift night watchman at a museum of natural history.
But during Larry’s watch, something extraordinary happens: the museum’s exhibits magically come to life. A fearsome T-Rex insists on a game of fetch (with one of his own skeleton bones); Mayans, Roman Gladiators, and cowboys emerge from their diorama to wage epic battles; and a wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt gives Larry important advice while harboring a crush for an Indian princess.
As things spiral wildly out of control, Larry must find a way to control the magic to stop a nefarious plot and save the museum.
The hallowed halls of the Natural History Museum are lined with the most amazing things – wild-eyed prehistoric creatures, fierce ancient warriors, long lost tribes, African animals and history’s legendary heroes – all frozen forever in time. Or… are they?
In the action-adventure-comedy, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, the brand new night guard at the Natural History Museum is about to discover that when the visitors go home at the end of the day, the real adventure begins – as the museum’s stuffed, waxed and well-preserved residents come out to play.
The fantastical adventure kicks off when Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), a down-and-out dreamer whose imaginative ideas have never paid off, finds himself in desperate need of a job. Larry has always believed he was destined for big things. But he has no idea just how literally gargantuan and hairy a challenge he will face when he grudgingly accepts the supposedly menial graveyard shift as a security guard at the Natural History Museum. On his very first night on the job, Larry is handed an over-sized flashlight and a dog-eared instruction manual, then left all alone in the eerily quiet, cavernous museum. At least, he thinks he’s alone.
But wait, what’s that noise? To his utter astonishment and disbelief, Larry watches in shock and awe as, one by one, the primeval beasts and storied icons that surround him stir magically to life – and total havoc ensues. Now, as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Attila The Hun carve a swath of destruction through the marble corridors, and lions and monkeys prowl the fragile exhibits, Larry is at a loss as to how to get the museum back under control. At his wit’s end, Larry must recruit the help of historical heavyweight Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) just to survive the night. Facing the possibility of losing his job and letting down his son Nick yet again, Larry must wage an incredible battle to save the museum, hoping to become at last the bold, adventurous dad he’s always wanted to be. The man who’s been forever waiting for his moment of greatness – just found it.
Entering the Museum: The Fantasy Begins
At the heart of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is an imagination-tickling dream that anyone who’s ever wandered through a museum in wide-eyed awe has secretly harbored: that outrageous fantasy in which the stuffed beasts and molded statues of the ancient past suddenly burst their seams and bust out of their exhibits to come fully to life in the here and now.
“I think most of us have had that experience where you walk by a statue in a museum and you could swear that you saw its eyes follow you,” says the film’s director Shawn Levy. “It’s a little spooky and it’s also very cool to imagine what would really happen if that came true – and, as a filmmaker, it’s exactly the kind of wild, incredible `what if’ that is completely impossible to resist.”
Right from the beginning, the idea behind NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM proved impossible to resist. It was all sparked when Croatian illustrator Milan Trenc first drew a children’s storybook in which a brand new night guard at the Natural History Museum in New York dozes off only to discover that one of the towering dinosaur skeletons he’s supposed to be protecting has mysteriously wandered away! Suddenly, the guard discovers he is surrounded by talking, growling and prowling statues, which turn the place upside down. With its spirited humor and enchanting tale of an ordinary man faced with wrangling the greatest legends of the past, the story became a family favorite.
It also seemed destined for the movies — and the book was soon optioned by Fox, with Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan of 1492 Pictures attached to produce, and 1492′s Mark Radcliffe attached to executive produce. The trio of filmmakers, who would later merge contemporary humor and cutting-edge effects into modern adventure classics with the Harry Potter series of films, envisioned an expanded story for NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM.
When Fox executives showed the book to screenwriters Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant – who came to the fore as partners with the runaway television hit “Reno 911″ (and the upcoming film version Reno 911!: Miami) — the duo could barely contain themselves. “We literally leapt from our seats,” says Lennon. “I mean, we’re both from New York and we basically spent our boyhoods roaming the Natural History Museum. We could draw you a map from memory, that’s how much we loved spending time there. It was simply the coolest place on earth.”
Adds Garant: “The thing that really grabbed us is that we both had the same dream as kids of hiding out in the museum and getting a chance to see what happens in there after it closes. I think lots of kids, not to mention plenty of adults, have had that same dream. To be there alone in the dark with all those legends of history and all those humongous creatures would be the ultimate adventure.”
Inspired by these boyhood memories, the ideas came fast and furious to Lennon & Garant. “The first thing we needed to figure out is where this spell has come from that is bringing all the museum’s exhibits to life,” recalls Lennon. “We were both in complete awe of the Egyptian Hall at the Met in New York and since Egyptians were very into keeping things alive forever, it suddenly made sense that it all began with an ancient Egyptian slate and the age-old wish for eternal youth.”
As they wrote, the core of the story became the character of Larry Daley, who developed into an inveterate dreamer and schemer, unable to get even one of his endless slate of overly ambitious projects off the ground. More importantly, Larry is also a wanna-be stellar dad who takes the night guard job in the hopes of never disappointing his son again.
“Larry is that guy I think we all know who believes in his dreams but doesn’t entirely believe in himself,” Garant explains. “He’s got these colossal ideas in his head all the time, but he’s never had the opportunity to prove to himself or his family that he can actually make something succeed”
With the characters set into motion, Lennon & Garant really started to have a blast, as they began to figure exactly who and what Larry might encounter as his first night on the job transforms from dull to downright mind-boggling. From the Hall of Civilizations to the American Railroad Dioramas, there were myriad possibilities. “We started off by making a list of all of our very favorite things from all our favorite museums – from the giant Easter Island heads to the dioramas,” says Lennon. “We also knew we wanted Teddy Roosevelt to be a major character because the Natural History Museum in New York is lined with quotes from him and you really feel the spirit of the man in there – not to mention that he himself, as a famous naturalist, wrangled some of the exhibits in there!” Roosevelt’s famous words of wisdom – such as “it’s hard to fail but it’s worse never to have tried to succeed” – became further inspiration for the themes underlying the entire story.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Carla Gugino, Kim Raver, Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, Rami Malek, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Screenplay by: Ben Garant
Release Date: December 22nd, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action, language and brief rude humor.
Box Office: $250,863,268 (US total)
Studio: 20th Century Fox