November 15, 2007 by Marshal Rosenthal
Ben Stiller isn’t the funniest guy on the planet but having him take on the night watchman job at a Museum of Natural History sounds promising - especially since everything comes to life magically at night and he has to keep the chaos from getting completely out of hand. Special effects rule the show, but the human actors get theirs in as well. Probably the best thing, besides seeing Stiller accosted by a monkey who is obviously smarter than he is, is the small but significant roles played by comic legends Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. There’s also Robin Williams adding a touch of sanity as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson as a diminutive Cowboy. But getting back to the S/FX - there’s a wide assortment of “inanimate” figures that makes for hilarity, be that a bone chasing T-Rex skeleton or a bunch of Cowboys fighting Roman soldiers.
This early title uses MPEG2, as compared to the more advanced encoding techniques found on most of the discs now coming out. However this is a well mastered disc and there is no artifacting or “noise” to destroy the enjoyment, although the colors might be a bit on the ruddy side at times when there’s close-ups of some of the characters. Outdoor scenes, such as in Central Park, are vivid, the tiny Roman catapults which were indistinct on DVD look real enough to pick up and the cut on Stiller’s lip is almost too detailed. There’s also a sharpness to the detail found both in the Museum itself as well as the clothing of the various characters who inhabit it which helps lend an air to the realism in moments of what is obviously a lovefest with CG. But on the negative side, having this much resolution does betray some of the “tricks” being used, and many bluescreen effects now seem a bit too obvious, such as when Stiller goes up against Owen Wilson. But you’ll get over it.
DTS-HD provides a well balance soundfield. While there are few big sounds to challenge the surrounds, there’s a nice “bite” to the audio that helps to keep the level of excitement up when surround effects kick in. A bit of calibration for the bass response can help here (as it did in my case).
Extras consist of commentaries by the director and the writers, plus the trailer in HD. At least the Trivia track goes the extra distance: popping up different colored text blocks while the movie runs to provide info on the actors, on history and about the production and the museum.
About my only complaint is that the box doesn’t have the lenticular front found on the DVD box.
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Disc Specs and Credits
Format reviewed: Blu-ray
Disc Size: N/A
Aspect Ratio: 1080p, 2.35:1
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriter: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
Starring: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Jake Cherry, Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, Kim Raver, Patrick Gallagher, Rami Malek, Pier-francesco Favino, Charles Q. Murphy, Steve Coogan, Mi-zuo Peck
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
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