It was released on December 22, 2006 by 20th Century Fox. The first installment in the Night at the Museum trilogy, the film was a box office success despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, grossing over $574 million.
Larry Daley is a divorced man from Queens, hoping to find a good job to impress his ten-year old son Nick, his ex-wife Erica believing he is a bad example for their son. Larry is hired at the American Museum of Natural History to replace the retiring security guards Cecil Fredericks and his colleagues Gus and Reginald. Larry meets the museum’s neurotic curator Dr. McPhee, and museum docent Rebecca Hutman, who plans to write a dissertation on Sacagawea. On his first night, Cecil hands Larry an instruction manual on what to do in the museum, warning him not to let anything “in or out.”
Larry soon discovers that at night, the museum’s exhibits come to life and cause havoc for him. Amongst the lively exhibits are a playful Tyrannosaurus skeleton named Rexy; a mischievous capuchin monkey named Dexter who destroys the instructions; the warring factions of cowboys and legionnaires led by Jedediah and General Octavius; violent Attila the Hun; a talking Easter Island Head that desires gum; the fire-seeking neanderthals; and a wax model of Theodore Roosevelt, who is in love with Sacagawea.
Roosevelt explains to Larry that the exhibits have come to life every night since the arrival of an Egyptian artifact, the Tablet of Akhmenrah, the mummified pharaoh trapped in his sarcophagus. He also explains to Larry that as night guard, it is his job to make sure that no exhibit sets foot out of the museum, otherwise they will disintegrate into dust if the sun rises while they are outside. The next day, Cecil advises Larry to research history to make up for the instructions’ destruction. He studies in libraries and from Rebecca. Larry puts his new knowledge to good use on his second night, but some of his plans backfire and the neanderthals set their exhibit on fire, leading to one becoming dust after venturing outside. After having doubts and almost getting fired the next day, Larry offers to introduce Sacagawea to Rebecca, but she thinks he is mocking her.
On his third night, Larry brings Nick to the museum to watch the exhibits come to life, but they strangely do not. They catch Cecil, Gus, and Reginald stealing artifacts, who explain the tablet’s magic has allowed them to feel physically young in their old age, and plot to frame Larry for the theft while they enjoy a happy retirement. Nick activates the tablet, but Cecil steals it, locking Larry and Nick in the Egyptian exhibit. They free Akhmenrah, and rally the exhibits to stop the thieves and retrieve their colleagues who fled out into Central Park. Gus and Reginald are captured, but Cecil escapes by stagecoach.
Larry and several exhibits give chase, where they stop Cecil and recover the tablet, using its magic to escort all of the exhibits back into the museum before sunrise. Rebecca witnesses this and makes amends with Larry, subsequently introduced to Sacagawea. The next day McPhee fires Larry, but when they go into the museum, they find it is crowded due to last night’s strange activities, and Larry is rehired. During the credits, Cecil, Gus, and Reginald were granted mercy by Larry and work as janitors.Ben Stiller as Larry Daley, a night-shift security guard at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Dick Van Dyke as Cecil Fredericks, a veteran security guard
Carla Gugino as Rebecca Hutman, a museum docent
Mickey Rooney as Gus, a veteran security guard
Bill Cobbs as Reginald, a veteran security guard
Jake Cherry as Nick Daley, Larry's son
Ricky Gervais as Dr. McPhee, the curator of the Museum of Natural History and Larry's boss
Kim Raver as Erica Daley, Larry's former wife
Charlie Murphy as the taxi-driver
Paul Rudd as Don, Erica's fiancé
Anne Meara as Debbie
Robin Williams as a wax model of Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Gallagher as a wax model of Attila the Hun
Rami Malek as the mummy of Pharaoh Ahkmenrah
Pierfrancesco Favino as a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus
Owen Wilson as Jedediah, a miniature cowboy figure
Steve Coogan as Octavius, a miniature Roman general figure
Mizuo Peck as a polyurethane model of Sacagawea
Kerry van der Griend, Dan Rizzuto, Matthew Harrison, and Jody Racicot as wax models of neanderthals
Martin Christopher as a wax model of Meriwether Lewis
Martin Sims as a wax model of William Clark
Randy Lee, Darryl Quon, Gerald Wong, and Paul Chih-Ping Cheng as wax models of the Huns
Brad Garrett as the voice of the Easter Island Head
Crystal the Monkey as Dexter, a stuffed capuchin monkey
The building featured in the film, which was constructed on a sound stage in Burnaby, British Columbia, is based on the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, external shots of which were used in the movie.
Trainers spent several weeks training Crystal, who plays the troublemaking monkey Dexter, to slap and bite Stiller in the film.
Robin Williams' Theodore Roosevelt costume closely resembles that of John Wayne's character in The Shootist.
Director Shawn Levy credited Ben Stiller for the ensemble cast: "When actors hear that Ben Stiller is in a movie they want to work with him. It['s] a high-water mark and it absolutely draws actors in and I'm convinced that's a big part of why we got this cast.""Friday Night" - performed by McFly; not featured in American version of the film, but heard in some international cuts, used during the end credits. It can be heard on the American DVD on the Spanish dub.
"September" - performed by Earth, Wind and Fire; used before the end credits where everyone in the museum is partying.
"Weapon of Choice" - performed by Fatboy Slim; used in the scene where Larry returns to the museum for his second night and is preparing for the chaos.
"Tonight" - performed by Keke Palmer and Cham; used for the end credits (U.S. theatrical version only).
"Eye of the Tiger" - performed by Ben Stiller; used in the scene where Larry is bored and messes around with the telephone at the front desk beatboxing the music.
An instrumental version of "Mandy" by Barry Manilow is used when Larry is standing in the elevator, while escaping from Attila the Hun.
"Ezekiel Saw Them Dry Bones" is the tune Larry whistles as he passes the empty T. rex exhibit on his first night.
"Camptown Races" by Stephen Foster is sung by the townspeople of the American West miniature diorama. This is a period-correct song.
Alan Silvestri replaced John Ottman as score composer. Silvestri's score was used for the teaser trailer of Horton Hears a Who!
Varese Sarabande released a soundtrack album of the score on December 19, 2006.
All tracks written by Alan Silvestri.
Night at the Museum had its premiere in New York City on December 17, 2006, in South Korea on December 21, 2006, on December 22, 2006 in United States, December 26, 2006 in UK, January 12, 2007 in Brazil, on February 14, 2007 in China and on March 17, 2007 in Japan.
The film was released under the title of "Noche en el museo" in Spain, "Una notte al museo" in Italy, "La nuit au musée" in France, "Ночь в музее" in Russia and "Uma Noite no Museu" in Brazil.
At the end of its box office run, Night at the Museum earned a gross of $250.9 million in the US and Canada and $323.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $574.5 million against a budget of $110 million. It is also the highest-grossing film worldwide of the trilogy.
It was the highest-grossing film in its opening weekend, grossing $30.8 million plating in 3,685 theaters, with a $8,258 per-theater average. For the four-day Christmas holiday weekend, it took in $42.2 million. The movie was also released in IMAX large screen format, often on site at museums of science or natural history such as the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
In its second weekend, Night at the Museum expanded into 83 more theaters and took in approximately $36.7 million, out-grossing its opening weekend. It maintained the top position in its third week, with an additional $23.7 million.
During its opening weekend of December 15, 2006, the film grossed a figure of estimated $5 million, with the highest debut coming from South Korea ($5.04 million). The biggest market in the other territories were the UK, Japan, South Korea, and Germany, where it grossed $40.8 million, $30 million, $25.7 million, $22.9 million.
Night at the Museum received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 43%, based on 132 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Parents might call this either a spectacle-filled adventure or a shallow and vapid CG-fest, depending on whether they choose to embrace this on the same level as their kids". On Metacritic, the film a score of 48 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
James Berardinelli of Reelviews gave it 2 stars out of 4, and commented on Stiller's performance by stating "It might be fair to give Ben Stiller an 'A' for effort, but to call what he does in this movie "acting" is a misnomer. He does a lot of running around, occasionally falling down or bumping into things." One positive review by William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, gave it a B-, and stated that the film was "Out to impress and delight a family audience with the pageantry of human and natural history, and that's a surprisingly worthy ambition for a Hollywood comedy." In a case of life imitating art, museum officials at the American Museum of Natural History have credited the film for increasing the number of visitors during the holiday season by almost 20%. According to a museum official, between December 22, 2006, and January 2, 2007, there were 50,000 more visitors than during the same period the prior year. CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was released on a 2-Disc DVD edition in the United Kingdom on April 2, 2007. It was released on 1-Disc and 2-Disc DVD editions and Blu-ray Disc format on April 24, 2007 elsewhere.
The film became the first non-Disney film to be reviewed by Ultimate Disney (now known as DVDizzy.com), due to the website dealing with other studios besides Disney.
As of 6 December 2009, the film has sold 9,191,694 DVDs and grossed $153,566,058 in DVD sales.
The first installment in the trilogy, Night at the Museum was followed by a sequel titled Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which was released on May 22, 2009 in North America. The third and final installment, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, was released on December 19, 2014 in North America.