National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks& Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

April 22-28, 2007 Issue | Posted 4/17/07 at 9:00 AM


The Queen  (2006)- PICK

Night At the Museum (2006) – PICK

The death of Princess Diana becomes the occasion of a virtual constitutional crisis in Stephen Frears’ The Queen, an intriguing dramatic duet between Helen Mirren’s effortlessly authoritative Queen Elizabeth and Michael Sheen’s finely observed Tony Blair.

Although the two characters appear together only at the beginning and the end of the film, the tension between the veteran monarch and her fledgling prime minister embodies the rift between the two very different strands of British identity — Rule Britannia and Cool Britannia. It was a gap the “people’s princess” so easily bridged, which is precisely why her death left such a gaping wound in the British consciousness.

In an early sequence, a young, overawed Blair meets for the first time with his crisply imposing queen. She reminds him that, during her reign, nine previous prime ministers going back to Winston Churchill have sat in the chair Blair now occupies. This establishes the status quo. Yet the inexperienced but media-savvy Blair is quick to see the ramifications when Diana’s death leaves the nation mourning the loss of a national figure, while the queen sees only the death of a private citizen.

Supporting figures, including Charles and especially James Cromwell’s Prince Philip, are too broadly drawn, but Mirren and Sheen make The Queen well worth seeing.

Overtly reminiscent of the Chris Van Allsburg adaptations Zathura and Jumanji, Night at the Museum is a high-concept premise that ought to run out of steam after about 15 minutes. But the film manages to be funnier and more entertaining than it has any right to be, making it modestly diverting with a few drawbacks.

Alas, like Zathura, Night begins and ends with a broken family. Hapless Larry (Ben Stiller) is an underachiever whose failings have apparently cost him his marriage, and make it hard for him to be an equal partner with his ex-wife Erica (Kim Raver) in raising their son Nick (Jake Cherry). Desperate, Larry takes the first opening he can find — night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, where three quirky guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs) suggest that all may not be as it seems.

Once alone in the museum, Larry learns the truth: The museum exhibits, from the iconic T. Rex skeleton to the diorama models and stuffed animals, come to life at night. The unfortunate postmarital premise aside, Night at the Museum will probably leave you with a smile on your face.

Content advisory
The Queen: Occasional obscene and profane language; passing references to divorce and infidelity. Teens and up. Night at the Museum: Mild slapstick violence; a mildly crude words and a few mild profanities; normalized depiction of divorce and possible remarriage. Okay family viewing.