Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, a down-on-his-luck divorced father in this family-friendly tale directed by Shawn Levy (JUST MARRIED, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN). Larry has lots of ideas and dreams, but none of them come to fruition. In an attempt to prove his stability to his ex-wife (Kim Raver) and his son, Nicky (Jake Cherry), Larry accepts a job as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History. But the elderly night guards who hire him (played by entertainment legends Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, and Bill Cobbs) fail to mention one crucial detail: when the museum is closed, everything inside comes to life. From Attila the Hun to miniature Roman soldiers, African mammals to Neanderthal men, and Egyptian mummies to dinosaur skeletons, the museum teems with lively activity. Now it's Larry's job to control the mayhem and show his son that he is, indeed, a great man after all.
There might be a moral to this story, which is based on the book of the same name by Milan Trenc, but the screenplay and action remain light and breezy. Stiller is perfect as Larry, particularly in scenes with a sneaky monkey who repeatedly gets the better of him. Brief appearances by Anne Meara (Stiller's real-life mother) and Paul Rudd add to the fun. Carla Gugino plays a museum docent, Ricky Gervais portrays the incomprehensible museum director, and Robin Williams moonlights as a wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt that comes to life. Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan are particularly amusing as a bickering miniature cowboy and a Roman soldier.