I didn't catch the press screening for Night at the Museum (321 screens) in December. I was busy with my San Francisco Film Critics Circle duties, seeing more "important" films that were worthy of awards consideration. After Christmas, I was assigned to catch up with it, and so I hauled myself down to the local multiplex and sat through a matinee. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed it. So did the rest of America; it was the number 1 box office attraction from December 22 through January 7.

I have to admit, there was something of a perverse thrill about this hit movie. It gave us the opportunity to say -- without lying -- that the new Mickey Rooney movie was the biggest hit in the country. Rooney plays one of three aged janitors in the film (along with Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs) who loses his job to the younger Larry Daley (Ben Stiller). Many people may not know this, or even believe it, but Rooney was the biggest box office star in the country for three years running, 1939-1941. (He surpassed Shirley Temple, and was later surpassed by Abbott and Costello!)

categories Columns, Cinematical