Australian Council on Children and the Media

Night at the Museum

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, PG to 8 (Scary scenes. Viol.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Night at the Museum
  • a review of Night at the Museum completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 December 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to scary scenes and violence
Children aged 5-8 Parental guidance recommended
Children over the age of 8 Should be okay with or without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Night at the Museum
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence, Mild coarse language
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is a dreamer with big plans that never take off. He has no job, is about to be evicted from his apartment, and is told by his ex-wife Erica (Kim Raver) that their son Nick (Jake Cherry) needs more stability than Larry currently offers. Larry puts aside his dreams and takes the first job he can get, night watchman at New York’s Museum of Natural History. Larry is to replace three former guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs), who are being retired.

As Larry commences his first night, the museum comes to life, brought about by the magical effects of a solid gold ancient Egyptian tablet. Various exhibits become animated including a T-Rex skeleton exhibit that wants to play fetch with one of its rib bones, miniature cowboys led by Jedidiah (Owen Wilson) battling Roman centurions led by a general named Octavius (Steve Coogan), a wax statue of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), who becomes Larry’s mentor, numerous African animals, a mischievous monkey, Attila the Hun, Neanderthals and Christopher Columbus. Larry’s first night becomes utter chaos, but with the assistance of Teddy Roosevelt he manages to survive his first night.

For the sake of his relationship with his son, Larry agrees to continue for another night, but this night turns out to be just as much of a fiasco. The following night he takes Nick to work with him to show him what happens. During the night Larry discovers that the former guards are trying to steal the magical gold tablet and Larry, Nick and the rest of the museum’s exhibits must try to stop them.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family relationships

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Larry is knocked to the ground and hit in the head by an ice hockey puck.
  • a number of suggestions for violent acts for example, “Where are they, I’ll beat them with my fists.” “I ought to punch you in the nose.” 
  • a T-Rex skeleton chases Larry, snapping its jaws as if trying to bite him
  • the T-Rex swishes its tail, knocks Larry off of his feet and sends him flying through the air
  • Larry is chased by axe wielding Huns including Attila the Hun. He runs into an elevator and Attila gets his head jammed in the elevator doors.
  • a civil war battle erupts between faceless civil war mannequins. Bayonets are thrust at throats, mannequins pull each other to the ground, clothes are ripped and stuffing comes out
  • Larry is pushed by a mammoth, pecked at by an ostrich, chased by lions, urinated on by a monkey, viciously bitten on the nose by a monkey, shot in the face by miniature blowpipe darts, causing his lip to go numb, hogtied by miniature cowboys, dragged across a model railway, rammed in the side of the head by a model train, shot at with miniature arrows and with fireballs thrown by miniature catapults
  • Jedidiah talks about shooting Larry in the eye.
  • pictures of Huns quartering (pulling arms and legs off) a captive
  • Attila the Hun and his band of warriors catch Larry and try to quarter him
  • a battle erupts between Jedidiah and his cowboys, and General Octavius and his centurions. Jedidiah punches Octavius in the face.
  • a monkey and Larry repeatedly slap each other across the face
  • a Neanderthal, who that is caught outside as night turns to day turns to dust, which is swept up by a street cleaner.
  • Larry is attacked by the three old security guards; who have superhuman strength while under the influence of the magical tablet. Larry is kicked in the chest which sends him flying across the room, punched in the face and has a fist slammed down on his back.
  • giant Egyptian dog statues try to impale Larry and Nick with giant spears
  • giant Egyptian statues throw a large piece of masonry through the Museum gates
  • Larry and Attila have a shouting match that disintegrates into a babbling match, ending with Attila bursting into tears.
  • while trying to deflate the tyres on a car, Jedidiah and Octavius are blown through the air
  • one of the old security guards is blown through the air when a whale shoots a spout of water at him
  • Teddy Roosevelt is cut in half when he is run over by a stagecoach, as he is made from wax he feels no pain and is later put back together
  • Jedidiah and Octavius crash a remote control car they are driving, which bursts into a cloud of smoke and fire; they survive the crash.
  • one of the old guards is thrown from a stagecoach to land in snow.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are several images and scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • a jaw-snapping T-Rex skeleton chasing Larry
  • Attila the Hun chasing Larry with a large axe
  • faceless civil war soldiers
  • a giant Mammoth and Neanderthals
  • snakes squirming in front of Larry’s face
  • large roaring lions that chase Larry
  • giant Egyptian statues with the head of a dog and the body of a man.
  • a threatening Egyptian mummy trying to break out of its sarcophagus

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

It is unlikely that anything in this movie would scare or disturb children over the age of eight.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

In is unlikely that anything in this movie would scare or disturbe children in this age group.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

One brief scene of people at a party during which at one point the word “Tequila” is shouted out during a dance song.

Coarse language

Infrequent low level coarse language and several instances of verbal putdowns.

In a nutshell

Night at the Museum is quite well done, but does not deliver as well as it could have in terms of storyline or character development, becoming less funny as it progresses. Most older children and adolescents should find the film entertaining and enjoyable to view, as will many adults. The main messages from this movie are the importance of pursuing your dreams and developing positive relationships. Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include perseverance, commitment and compassion.

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