Night at the Museum (Shawn Levy, 2006)

A treatise on the natural world

Is anyone else tired of that monkey? You know the one, the cute capuchin monkey that all too often features in (children’s) movies to engage in antics such as stealing things, peeing on things, acting contrary and generally being a pain in the butt. For my part, whenever The Monkey pops  up, I start to slap my face, and the face-slapping doesn’t stop until the credits.

The problem with The Monkey is that it’s an overplayed trope and not very funny to begin with. It’s a shortcut. “Gosh, we need some physical comedy here, but we also need to endear our youthful audience,” a not-too-artistic executive says. “Let’s put in one of those monkeys you see in every other film. That’ll give us a cheap laugh or two.” It’s like the glass pane carriers of yore that would always exactly block the path of a racing main character, necessitating either crashing through the window or precarious balancing to keep it intact (after which it inevitably breaks anyway). Except rarity of use has made this once-cliché fresh again and I would genuinely welcome some inspired new glass pane comedy. This in contrast to The Monkey, which is pretty much played out for the next twenty years or so.

Seriously, if I see a new movie featuring that cackling primate within two decades, I’ll be the one throwing my feces.

As for Night at the Museum, it’s a serviceable family film with only a couple of good laughs (Dick van Dyke jumping out of a display dressed up as a bushman for a scare, then flatly warning his charge not to fool around with the exhibits), a lot of frantic running around marble hallways and Ben Stiller doing an adequate job keeping it together. Its best moments come not from The Monkey, but from Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan as a diminutive cowboy and Roman general, both desperate to be taken seriously.

Roderick Leeuwenhart



4 comments:

  1. Nice read! I like how you focus more on an element/trend here, and less on simply your opinion of a random movie. More interesting to read, I think. :)

    The glass pane that is balanced and does or does not drop somehow reminded me of Playtime by Tati. Have you seen that movie? It took some getting used to for me, but somehow afterwards I remember all the physical comedy there with a lot of fondness!

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    1. I have yet to see Playtime! It was treated in class once, but the room reacted pretty poorly to it and it was shut off. I'll write it down on the to-see list, thanks.

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  2. I hate it when they add monkeys too ^^;. Besides, chameleons are much better! (Tangled <3)

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    1. Haven't seen Tangled, but will vouch for the awesomeness of chameleons in Rango!

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