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Night at the Museum is a 2006 American adventure comedy film. It is based on a 1993 children's book by Milan Trenc. It follows a divorced father trying to settle down, impress his son, and find his destiny. He applies for a job as a night watchman at New York City's American Museum of Natural History and subsequently discovers that the exhibits, animated by a magical Egyptian artifact, come to life at night.
Released on December 22, 2006, by 20th Century Fox, the film was written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Comedy Central's Reno 911! and MTV's The State, and directed by Shawn Levy. The cast includes Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Paul Rudd, Ricky Gervais, Carla Gugino, Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson. A new novelization of the screenplay by Leslie Goldman was published as a film tie-in.
The sequel, subtitled Battle of the Smithsonian, was released in May 2009. Here, as the New York museum is being renovated many exhibits are stored in the Smithsonian. This brings with them a whole other genre of problems as well as some other features of the Egyptian artifact.
Tropes spread among both movies include:
- Actor Allusion: This is not Owen Wilson's first time playing a cowboy - and in the sequel, we see his not-second-time getting buried up to his neck in sand. Bonus points for the inclusion of buddy-movie elements with Octavius. Bonus BONUS points for Steve Coogan, who played Octavius, also having been in a buddy-type movie with Jackie Chan which also featured Wilson as one of the cowboy esque Wright Brothers.
- All-Star Cast: Much like National Treasure, it's quite surprising to see all the big name stars.
- All There in the Manual: If you don't know basic to mild World History, then you'll miss most of the jokes.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Everything in the museum that comes to life counts as one of these.
- Army of the Ages
- Cloudcuckoolander: Your Mileage May Vary, but Dr. McPhee really seems like one at times.
- Did Not Do the Research: A brief walk through the actual Museum of Natural History in New York would have revealed to the writers that only subjects from the natural world are covered, not historical events like the Lewis & Clark expedition or Christopher Columbus. Anything more advanced than, say, the Aztecs is right out.
- Eternal English: In the first movie, Ahkmenrah speaks perfect English right out of the gate, which he explains as being from his time as an exhibit at Cambridge. In the second film, Kahmunrah first tries Egyptian, then French when he meets Larry before settling on English.
- This implies that Kamunrah was paraded around in France for a while before ending up in the Smithsonian (or the British Museum). Small inside joke, but like a lot of the movie, definitely History Bonus for those who get it.
- Everything's Better With Capuchins
- First Father Wins
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: This trope was averted in the first film: Larry was the only guard and it didn't take long for the news to notice when the exhibits started running through Central Park. The second film has no such excuse. The entire National Mall is brought to life by the tablet. They fly the Wright Brothers plane outside. They let an octopus swim in the reflecting pool. The Lincoln Memorial goes for a stroll! No one notices. For heaven's sake, there's a hole in one of the buildings and arguably millions in property damage!
- Also, Larry and his son spend time at the beginning of the movie studying the vast security measures of the museums, and yet are somehow able to stroll through them and leave and enter at his leisure. Huh?
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Jed and Octavius.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Cecil did this unintentionally when giving advice to Larry in the first movie. Cecil advises Larry to research stuff on the museum exhibits to help him out which is used against him when Larry shouts the secret code to stop the horse-drawn cart Cecil used to escape
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Sacajawea's name many times. There's also a deleted scene where Sacajawea's name is pronounced "Saka-gah-way-a", while Ahkmenrah's name is pronounced "Akh-men-rah".
- The Smithsonian guard Brandon (as spelled on his nameplate) in the sequel argues to Larry that his name is "Brundon" "BUR-RUN-DON".
- Ironic Echo: Teddy Roosevelt asked Larry "What are you made of?" in the first movie; in the second movie Larry says this to Amelia.
- The Napoleon: Well, duh.
- Jedediah, moreso in the first movie.
- Only Sane Man: Larry to an extent, but over the course of both movies, Sacajawea is honestly the most normal of the cast.
- Octavius and Jedediah at the end of the first movie, to Independence Day.
- They do it again at the final battle of Smithsonian, this time to 300.
- Early on in the movie Octavius orders a Rain of Arrows to be thrown at Larry his order is Unleash Hell! in reference to Gladiator.
- When Octavius sees the squirrel, he makes the "dinosaur vision" speech from Jurassic Park.
- As pointed out above, they have one to Brokeback Mountain in the first movie. It helps that Jedediah's an actual cowboy.
- In BOTS, Kahmunrah gets into the pop-culture wing and claims Archie Bunker's "throne" as his own. He's also seen trying on Muhammad Ali's robe at one point, as well as passing on wearing Dorothy Gale's ruby slippers.
- When Custer is knocked off the motorcycle early on, he tells Larry to keep going with, "Fly, you fool!"
- Octavius and Jedediah at the end of the first movie, to Independence Day.
- Sidekick Ex Machina: Ahkmenrah owns the tablet which made the whole exhibits alive, but he doesn't gain a lot of screen-time, especially in the second movie.
- Sliding Scale of Living Toys: The exhibits are either Level 4 or 5. Well, except the mummies.
- Took a Level In Badass: Good God, Larry between the first and second films.
- To the point where the last fight with Kahmunrah is not only his Greatest Crowning Moment, but it's actually much more epic than what it actually should be. Just watch it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
- The first film explained that the older janitors became Badass Grandpas because of dealing with the museum exhibits. Between films Larry gained those same skills in a younger body.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Octavius and Jedediah so hard.
- "You're going to live!" (breaks hourglass with helmet)
- The bit in the first movie where the two battle the raging gale... of a decompressing tire.
- This is lampshaded, as the camera keeps cutting back to a wider view of the area...and the only indication of this "battle" is the very soft hiss of air leaving the tire.
- Done again in the sequel, when Octavius gives a speech about how he's going to storm the White House to get help for Jedediah and begins to epically race towards the building. Cue the camera cutting back so the audience can't even see or hear him.
The first movie provides examples of:
- A Storm Is Coming: Larry says this while vowing to Dexter that he will get even for the monkey's antics.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Rexy, the tyrannosaurus skeleton.
- Angrish: When angry, the owner of the museum starts metaphors and can never finish him.
- Ax Crazy: Attila the Hun.
- Badass Grandpa: Night guard Cecil is a badass. Justified in that the tablet also reinvigorated him.
- Beta Baddie: Cecil, Reginald and Gus. They only wanted the tablet because it gave them virtual youth.
- Big "Shut Up!": The Moai.
- Calling Your Attacks: Gus does this.
Gus: "Sweet dreams, cupcake! PILEDRIVER!"
- Eenie Meenie Miny Moai: One of the exhibits in the original museum is a Moai, who is very fond of bubble gum.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Jedediah: (After trying to shoot Larry in the eye with his toy gun) "Now, you know my shame. Jedediah's impotent rage. His guns don't fire."
- Hot-Blooded: Gus, one of the villainous night guards in the first movie.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
Mr.Doctor McPhee really is just a Jerkass, but you can't help but feel for him in the second - and he does seem to be warming up to Larry by the end.
- Museum of the Strange and Unusual
- Mistaken for Granite: The giant statues of Anubis that guard the pharaoh.
- The Obi-Wan: Teddy Roosevelt to Larry.
- Hell, he was practically Larry's surrogate father.
- Playing Against Type: First of all. Dick van Dyke is one of the Big Bads in the first movie. Secondly, Ben Stiller's playing the main role in a couple of children's films here? Yeah..
- Don't forget Mickey Rooney!
- Freudian Trio: Cecil (Ego), Reginald (Superego), and Gus (Id).
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Ahkmenrah (one of the only exhibits in the museum who biologically exists besides Rexy), once the tablet activates.
- Spell My Name with an "S": How is the tablet owner's name spelled? Ahkmenrah, Akhmenrah, or Akmenrah?
- The Voiceless: Larry mistook Sacagawea for this since she was behind Plexiglas and couldn't be heard.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Was there any explanation where the protagonist's girlfriend went after the first movie?
The sequel Battle of The Smithsonian provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: In the sequel, Robin Williams returns to his role as Teddy Roosevelt. He also plays Teddy Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt. Hank Azaria plays the Big Bad, the Thinker, and Abraham Lincoln.
- Action Girl: Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.
- Actor Allusion: Cliff Howard as a NASA ground controller.
- Affably Evil: Kahmunrah. Between his lisp and over the top antics he becomes rather likable.
- Androcles' Lion: The Giant Octopus
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Abraham Lincoln's statue.
- Battle Royale With Cheese
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: At the end of the film, Amelia decides to take a plane and fly off into the wild blue yonder, and certain death, since she'll turn to dust once the sun rises. However, she wants to die doing what she loves, rather than spend the rest of her existence as an inanimate statue.
- Big Bad: Khamunrah
- Big Damn Heroes: In 2, it doesn't get much bigger than the Lincoln from the Lincoln Memorial saving you.
- Brick Joke: Daley's Devices seems to be built on Larry's experiences in the museum; in particular, the "unlosable keychain" stems from the kleptomaniac capuchin monkey.
- Captain Obvious: That one Tuskegee airman may as well be named this.
- Casting Gag: The trio of singing cherubs are played by the Jonas Brothers.
- Chekhov's Skill: Larry's moves with his flashlight. First just a cool move, by the end of the movie, a life-saver.
- In a similar vein, the capuchin kept stealing Larry's keys, somehow teaching Larry enough to steal Brundon's keycard.
- Cultural Translation: The Italian rendition of the movie is literally riddled with them, often bordering on the Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- While in the original dub Napoleon, upon meeting Amelia and Larry just gives them an Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other speech, in the Italian rendition Napoleon compares their sexual tension to the many romances he had in life, quipping that he may have sired lots of son who never knew their ancestry. This apparently innocent exchange turns into blatant Getting Crap Past the Radar (given the then currently Italy political situation) when Napoleon describes one of his latest descendants in detail: the potential descendant of an Italian lover, a jolly, funny fellow, short of stature but always overtly cheesy and cheery, who "is really important in his Country", and "once used to be a cruise ship crooner".
BrandonBrundon gets turned on the stereotypical Neapolitan fellow, braggart, slang-spewing and with a deep-set veneration for Maradona.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Al Capone and his men, and also the artistic photograph of 1945 in Smithsonian.
- Demoted to Extra: The exhibits who has to stay at the Museum of Natural History during the movie (except for Teddy Roosevelt, who was also a metal bust at the Smithsonian).
- Deus Exit Machina: The statue of Abraham Lincoln walks off after dispatching Kahmunrah's underworld army, since it would have been a Curb Stomp Battle had he stayed for the climax.
- Distracted From Death: A non-lethal variant. Teddy Roosevelt is about to go back to being wax, and wants to give him one last bit of advice before he does so. However, unfortunately, just as he is about to give said advice, Larry has to take a phone call, and looks up to find that Teddy has already turned to wax by the time he finishes talking.
- Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest
- Drop What You Are Doing: Al Capone, rather tellingly, drops the Einstein bobblehead when Kahmunrah opens the portal to the netherworld.
- Enemy Civil War: Larry starts one by first implying that Kahmunrah is the "master" of Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone, who don't take it very well.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: General Custer.
- Fan Service: This being a family movie, there's something for everyone - Amelia Earhart's really, really tight pants for the boys; Ahkmenrah's Bare Your Midriff costume for the girls.
- Flashlight Fu: Larry's skill with a flashlight in Battle for the Smithsonian, also brought as a Chekhov's Skill.
- Fly At the Camera Ending: With an old fashioned biplane.
- Genius Ditz: The Einstein bobbleheads. Admittedly, some versions tell that Einstein was quite goofy.
- Genki Girl: Amelia Earhart
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Larry's the only one who knows about the Battle for the Smithsonian.
- The Smithsonian therefore has both the worst security and best maintenance staff of all time.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: We only see one security guard for the Smithsonian, and it seems to be the slowest night ever in Washington, DC - no one notices a thing amiss.
- Hands Go Down: Kahmunrah after being asked about his tunic thinking it's a dress by Al Capone and Ivan the Terrible.
Kahmunrah: Are there any other questions?
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The movie ends with Larry selling his company and donating the money to the Natural History Museum, under the guise of funding more "high-end" upgrades to the exhibits, allowing the exhibits to come alive at night without any fear of breaking the Masquerade.
- Historical In-Joke: The WW 2 sailor who nabs Larry's cellphone is named Joey Motorola. Wait, does this mean the Timey-Wimey Ball could be in effect?
- If so, its a Critical Research Failure: Motorola already existed in 1945, and it wasn't named after the founder.
- Historical Beauty Update: Amy Adams plays Amelia Earhart. Beat. Umm... She Cleans Up Nicely, but in those pics she could stand to gain a few pounds.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Ivan the terr... er, the Awesome complains about this in the second movie, just before acting the part for the rest of it.
- Hollywood History: Subverted somewhat with Ivan the Terrible, who points out that a more accurate translation of his nickname would be "the Awesome", and that he was in fact a fairly good ruler.
- Homage: Larry scouting out the Smithsonian is accompanied by background music from National Treasure. Note that both movies involve breaking into a national museum.
- Hypocritical Humor: Al Capone makes fun of Kahmunrah's tunic, calling it a "dress". Ivan the Terrible also makes fun of Kahmunrah's "dress", even though he himself is wearing a fairly long robe that itself might be easily mistaken for a dress.
- In a somewhat darker example, we have this line: "You'll never get lost following Amelia Earhart."
- Identical Grandson: Subverted with the girl at the end who looks like Amelia Earhart. Apparently they're not related. As far as she knows.
- Idiot Ball: Larry seems to have forgotten that it was well established in the previous film that simply turning the middle piece of the tablet cancels the spell, meaning he could effectively solve the entire problem in seconds.
- Improbable Weapon User: Larry and his flashlight.
- Insistent Terminology: Brandon/Brundon ... oh, and Kahmunrah's dress sense:
Kahmunrah: This is not a dress, it is a tunic!
- Large Ham: Kahmunrah.
"I have come back to LIFE!!!"
- Leeroy Jenkins: Custer.
- Lzherusskie: Ivan the Terrible is played by Brit Cristopher Guest.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Amelia Earheart and Larry. There's obvious sexual tension between them, but Larry deliberately chooses to spur her advances knowing how, upon taking the Tablet away, Amelia will return to her lifeless, mannequin status, dooming their romance to live and die in a single night, and vowing to spare the horrible truth to Amelia. Amelia has different ideas though: she already knows, she just doesn't care that much.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Amelia Earheart.
- Mission Pack Sequel: Battle of the Smithsonian.
- No Endor Holocaust: The destruction or disappearance of some of the most valuable artifacts in human history and a large break-in into a government facility. All signs clearly point to Larry being the one responsible. Are you telling me no-one's investigating this? When you realize his sole alibi is that he was protecting the world from an undead army and allied with waxworks brought to life by magic. Yeah... Larry's likely going to be in prison for a long time.
- Oh Crap: That's the exact translation of the Bird-warriors' screeches when Abraham Lincoln's statue enters the battle.
- Overly Long Gag: Often the plot stops dead to allow for various characters to have a back-and-forth argument, seemly just made up of snappy lines the writers came up with.
- Painted-On Pants: Amelia Earhart's pants. In fact, she's the page picture.
- Parental Favoritism: Kahmunrah said that his "mother and father" gave Egypt to the more thoughtful Ahkmenrah.
- Portal Picture: Larry and Amelia escape into the famous kiss at Times Square photo.
- Punctuated for Emphasis:
- "I! Have come back! To life!"
- "Don't! Cross! This! Line! With your hand!"
- Retired Badass: Larry passes as this on his interaction with Brandon... I mean, Brundun.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The short stay of the Bird-Warriors.
- Sequel Non Entity: Rebecca doesn't appear or get mentioned in the sequel, despite starting a relationship with Larry at the end of the first film.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Spoofed.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Custer at first.
- Stock Parody: Of 300, and it's a gas.
- Take That: At one point Kahmunrah mocks Oscar the Grouch and Darth Vader.
- Well, it is Vader with no powers or Lightsaber who won't even talk. If you didn't know who he was you wouldn't be impressed either. Oscar is just vaguely... Grouchy.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: The tablet opens a portal to the underworld after punching in... the value of Pi, to about eight decimal places.
- Villain Team-Up: Khamunrah, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone.
- Weaponized Landmark: The Lincoln Memorial.
- Wilhelm Scream: In the Air and Space Museum.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Octavius' squirrel mount.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Amelia flies off into the sunset at the end. Unless the plane turned to dust with her, there's going to be one hell of a crash in the morning.
- How is Larry going to explain the destruction or disappearance of some of the most valuable artefacts in human history?
- Writers Cannot Do Math: A bobblehead Albert Einstein, of all people, tells Larry that the "exact" value of π is 3.1495265.
- You Fail History Forever: You know, for a film that's supposed to encourage kids to learn history, they do love re-enforcing old (untrue) stereotypes -- like Napoleon's shortness.
- To be fair, it makes sense that the exhibits would all be Flanderizations of the actual figures as that's largely what is taught with basic history. Even in the movie, even though Napoleon is shorter than most of the rest of the cast, he's not played by a midget or anyone extraordinarily short, and they closest they come to actually calling him short is Larry commenting that he makes a lot of analogies involving him being bigger than other people.
- You Fail Physics Forever: The flight of the Wright Flyer (flying from a dead stop, and making maneuvers that would have been impossible for the flyer).
- Likewise, even on the winter solstice (when you'd get the biggest advantage from latitude) it is impossible to take off from Washington, DC an hour before sunrise and make it to New York City in a single engine propeller plane and land in New York City before dawn. The plane simply isn't fast enough.