With 'Night at the Museum', director Shawn Levy has excelled in bringing New York's Natural History Museum to life in this surprisingly entertaining fantasy, utilising a great comedy cast in, apparently, tailor-made roles.

One good man, who replaces three decrepit old men as the nighttime guard at the museum, finds new life and a new interest in history when the exhibits of the museum come alive to do their thing after hours.
Larry Daley (Stiller) - dreamer, father and inventor of snapper activated lights (as opposed to clapper ones) - takes a job at the Museum of Natural History, more out of desperation than a love of history.

Unbeknownst to Larry, a job that appears to be the epitome of boring - the graveyard shift, in a museum full of wax, stone and stuffed things - proves to be less menial than it seems.

Thrown in at the deep end, Larry's huge instruction book for the job is sabotaged by Dexter, the feisty Capuchin monkey, before he even gets a chance to read task number three. So Larry must learn fast how to control the havoc of the museum's inhabitants and just prays he will still be alive by sunrise.

Larry returns more prepared the second night, but the little things - like the miniature American cowboys trying their best not to live in harmony next to the miniature Romans' exhibit - and the bigger problems, like rampant pillaging, the limb-tearing Huns, the Neanderthals on their quest for fire or a Tyrannosaurus Rex playing fetch, make the hard-done-by Larry's $11.50 an hour job tough work.

But one night, everything seems amiss. Everything stays lifeless. The usual lovable chaos is nowhere to be seen. And so begins the hunt for three robbers who have literally stolen the life of the museum, the Egyptian tablet that has been bringing history back to real life.

'Night at the Museum' is fantastic fun. The concept of a not-so-lifeless museum reels in and mesmerises the young, while the great cast appeals to all adults. With the Ricky Gervais element, who plays Larry's incoherent boss Mr McPhee, Owen Wilson's brilliance and Stiller's enduring quality, it's definitely the charming line up that makes the film accessible to an older audience. And the script, oddly enough, seems to be made-to-measure for each individual actor.

The priceless scenes are many, especially a face slapping fight between Dexter (the monkey) and Larry, and also there's the epic attack the miniature cowboy Jedidiah (Wilson) and the miniature roman Octavius (Coogan) launch on the getaway van's tires - contrasted with the brilliant cut-away shots showing an unaffected van in total silence.

The relationships are well developed too, with Larry turning for advice to a wax version of Theodore Roosevelt (Williams), who himself falls for the great tracker Sacajawea (Peck). The tiny cowboy (Wilson) is haunted by the size difference between himself and Larry ''the gigantor'', while Larry wants for his son Luke (Cherry) to be proud of him.

Surprisingly riveting, 'Night at the Museum' is totally enjoyable and will genuinely please people of all ages. There's a slightly slow start but, once the humorous situation begins, the entire production - plot, execution, cast, comedy, CGI - flows smoothly. Brimming with adventure and charm, this one comes definitely highly recommended.

Patricia O'Callaghan