Night at the Museum Blu-ray Review
PictureNight At The Museum, big grosser that it was, is one of Fox's flagship BD releases at the moment so it should come as no surprise that its 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer is ravishing to look at. Erroneously billed as 2.35:1 on the packaging, the 1.85:1 image is hugely colourful and a veritable feast for the eyes, filling the screen like a well-stocked counter in a candystore. The palette is extremely warm and welcoming, looking polished and positively glowing. Fast action - lots of shots of Stiller running about, for example - are handled well, with no motion drag or smearing that I noticed, and the print is obviously, for such a new film, utterly pristine.
Yet there are problems with this transfer. Flesh-tones can appear a little too orange at times, the colours over-saturated - which is great for a kid-pleasing phantasmagoria of retina-entrancing visuals but still glaringly over-produced to anyone who treasures a pure transfer. Primaries really throb, to the degree were some inner integrity can be lost - this might be ok on some background displays, but clothes and immediate décor shouldn't suffer to this degree. Blacks, whilst deep and strong, could allow for a little more detail than they appear to supply in the darker corners of the picture, and the contrast can stray slightly too high at times - just witness the horrific blooming of the white fencing around the ice-rink near the start , but it is the edge enhancement that delivers the biggest disappointment. Whilst depth of field is actually very good, edges, particularly those around light-coloured objects, are prone to producing haloes - the model of the ancient Mayan pyramid being a prime example.
Detail is decent enough despite the efforts of the OTT colours to wash it away. The uniforms on the little Roman soldiers and the costumes on Owen Wilson and his cowboys are quite capable of revealing finite detail, as are the waves of arrows that the former send flying over. The bone-structure on the T-Rex is clean and sharp and many objects, well-lit and away from the cloying blacks, are beautifully rendered with clarity and depth. Close-ups are always spot-on, and if the overall image is not exactly the most three-dimensional you'll find on the format, it still finds the resolution to provide the odd, but entrancingly lush background detail to have your eyes roving about the screen in pleasure. Personally, I liked the initial model displays of the Mayan temple, the civilians and the soldiers toiling about outside the Coliseum and the cowboys around the train track - before they come to life, when the 3D-ism is lost amid a welter of poor CG.
So, in essence, this is a transfer that will doubtlessly please and captivate the kids. But there are definitely some issues that fans of the format will pick up on.
SoundFurnished with a DTS-HD Master Lossless track (encoded at 48 kHz/24-bit/609mpbs) - which, once again, cannot be fully experienced due to technical limitations - Night At The Museum sounds wonderful. Alan Silvestri's enjoyable score is solidly and energetically reproduced, forcefully charging around the speakers and allowing for a nice listener-encompassing experience. The frontal array boasts an impressively wide and deep soundfield, with lots of separation bouncing across it. High ends are extremely clear and the mid-range is warm and full. The bass levels come into play fairly often but are not particularly aggressive, probably an intentional thing considering that this is a family-orientated movie. The charging T-Rex is well catered-for with resounding, impact-heavy stomping around the set-up, and the various crash, bang, wallops of Stiller frequently hitting the deck are presented with fine and robust back-up from the sub.
The element that I found lacking, however, was with the surround action. Although engaged throughout the film, the rear speakers seemed to produce absolutely nothing of distinction to speak of. Yes, there is whip-around steerage that reaches out behind you, but it is nothing at all remarkable and, sitting here now to write this review, I cannot recall anything that struck me to use as an illustration of the transfer's capabilities within this vital department. Almost all the good stuff seemed to emanate from the front speakers.
But, don't be put off by this observation, folks - the track is still very rich and lively and certainly helps to add atmosphere and dynamism to the film.
ExtrasNot much to be found on this lowly BD-25, folks. All we get are a couple of commentaries and a pop-up trivia track. The on-screen track is unique to the BD release and comes colour-coded to represent the different aspects of the film that are being detailed - Actor, History, Museum and Production. I'm not really a fan of these things so, sadly, I didn't stick with this for long.
Much better value, of course, are the full commentaries. The first is from Shawn Levy and is a fine example of the form, with the director supplying a wealth of anecdote, trivia and technical detail. He is enthusiastic and clearly loved his experiences making the film, playing up Stiller's apparently vast input into the story's development and adding lots of good-natured charm. The second commentary track ropes in the writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, and this is a decent enough listen, if you can tolerate the jokey style that the double-act try to foster. I haven't actually heard all of their chat - it would, perhaps, have been better to have had all three contributors on the same track, with Levy able to rein his buddies in a bit and the trio, thus, able to bounce ideas and memories with more spontaneity.
Finally, we get the film's trailer and those for X-Men: The Last Stand, Eragon (aarghh!), Fantastic Four, Ice Age 2 and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all in 1080p.
VerdictIs it worth getting, then? Hell, yes ... if you've got kids. It's aimed at them, and if my lad is anything to go by, then they'll have a ball. However, if you love the antics of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, or Robin Williams, or even just want to see how well our own Ricky Gervais handles his first Hollywood outing, then I'm afraid Night At The Museum is a bit of a letdown. Undercooked yet overworked, the film misses at least as often as it hits and the end result is sadly tainted by the odour of lost potential. Switch the discerning adult brain off and you shouldn't have a problem, though.
The transfer is terrific at face value - sumptuously colourful and with DTS HD sound that is engaging - though flawed upon closer inspection. The extras have been largely ditched but they didn't sound like much in the first place - the usual back-slapping, bogusly happy guff that all-too often clogs up these FX-heavy family films. But, if you really want to see and hear the film at its best - well, its most colourful at any rate - then this BR release is definitely the one for you.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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