Okay, I guess a six-month hiatus is enough! Truly, I did not realize it had been this long since I've posted here.
I recently rented the movie Night at the Museum because I've become interested in the image of "the museum" in popular culture. I'm teaching a course on tourism and museums this term and just finished a weekend course on visual culture and museums, so I've got museum stuff on my mind.
In looking for possible documentaries about museums to use in class, I found that since the 1930s, there have been numerous Hollywood movies taking place in museums, most of them featuring a murder! It reminds me of the several murder mystery and crime novels that also take place in museums, for example, Murder in the Smithsonian by Margaret Truman. Museums are obviously creepy, dangerous places.
Night at the Museum continues this theme of the museum as a scary place, with dead things and people weirdly coming to life when no one is around. No one dies or is murdered and it's primarily a comedy, so the tone is lighter than that of its predecessors. Ben Stiller plays Larry, a character who gets a job as the night watchman in a natural history museum in New York and ends up coping with stuffed animals coming to life, Neandertals and Attila the Hun running around the place and threatening to escape, a friendly T. rex skeleton who wants to play fetch with one of its rib bones, and tiny living cowboys, Roman soldiers, and Mayan warriors with blowguns who emerge from miniature dioramas.
But to my amazement (since it takes place in New York), the undead characters include Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea, who by day are figures in a glassed-in exhibit. Lewis and Clark spend the whole time arguing with each other over a map or something, but Sacagawea steps down from the diorama and interacts with Larry and Teddy Roosevelt, played by Robin Williams, who looks just like him.
Lewis and Clark arguing and pointing on the other side of the glass. I took these photos from my television, so I hope no one sues me.
Sacagawea approaches Larry soon after coming to life at night. The Theodore Roosevelt character, it turns out, carries a torch for her and watches her wistfully every night through his binoculars.
A daytime docent in the museum turns out to be writing her dissertation on Sacagawea. There is one scene where she tells Larry all about how significant Sacagawea was for the Lewis and Clark expedition, how she guided them through the wilderness, that sort of thing. At the end of the movie, she is thrilled to meet Sac in person and ask her all the questions she thought she'd never find answers for.
Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt. At one point, Larry asks for his help with something but is told, "I'm not really Teddy Roosevelt. I'm just made of wax."
All in all, it's a pretty fun film--and Robin Williams as TR is great--but I sure didn't expect to discover Lewis and Clark when I popped in the DVD and hit "play."
[Photos from the film Night at the Museum.]