I don’t think there’s any real question that Meryl Streep is the finest actor of her generation. And at the risk of indulging in hyperbole, it might be safe to say at this point that she’s the finest actor of any generation.
Can you even conceive of a movie review that goes something like this: “The film is quite good but for the flat leading performance by Ms. Streep”? Of course not.
On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of reviews along these lines: “The film has its shortcomings but Ms. Streep’s commanding performance elevates the material.” Indeed, her very presence makes every film she’s in at least a little bit better.
I can’t imagine there is any better way to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian than the way I did — with my wife and two daughters on the last night of a week long trip to Washington D.C., having just spent hours at all of the places depicted in the film. That sort of experience basically renders moot any traditional criticism of the film.
The film certainly has its flaws, principal among them the complete absurdity of the premise. And no, I don’t mean the idea of museum exhibits coming to life at night — I can accept that. I mean the idea of, say, Abraham Lincoln’s statue rising from the seat of his memorial and walking across the city (and here’s the truly absurd part) seemingly undetected by any human being apart from Ben Stiller’s security guard-turned-entrepreneur. And I’m not sure why the Lincoln statue was affected by the magical museum re-animation tablet in the first place.