Ben Stiller's 'Museum' Out-Cutes 'Happyness,' Beats Down 'Rocky'

Kid-friendly comedy tops weekend box office, defeating Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone flicks.

The Top Five

#1 "Night at the Museum" ($30.8 million)

#2 "The Pursuit of Happyness" ($15 million)

#3 "Rocky Balboa" ($12.6 million)

#4 "The Good Shepherd" ($9.9 million)

#5 "Charlotte's Web" ($8 million)

(All numbers are as of Sunday, and do not include the Christmas holiday.)

Typically, parents have a tough time dragging their kids to a museum. So perhaps curators around the world should start planning their own Ben Stiller displays.

Stiller's high-concept flick "Night at the Museum" hit the high end of its studio's expectations over the Christmas weekend, stuffing more than $30 million in the stockings of 20th Century Fox. The movie, which tells the story of a frazzled night watchman under siege as museum displays come to life, co-stars Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais and Robin Williams. It handily beat up on competing holiday stars including Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz, but Hollywood has to be a bit shocked over the impressive showing by a well-known underdog from Philly.

"Rocky Balboa" took in $12.6 million, a number that Sylvester Stallone would've no doubt been thrilled to predict as he watched doors slam in his face while pitching his sixth Rocky film to various studios a few short years ago. Trading body blows all weekend, Rocky may not have won the fight, but he did put up a heartfelt effort that impressed anyone who underestimated the battered Philadelphia boxer ... wait a minute, all this sounds like a possible plot for "Rocky 7." Stallone has promised that "Balboa" will be the final Rocky flick, but at least this much is certain: "Rocky V" will no longer leave its foul aftertaste as the series' final movie.

"Rocky" came out swinging hard, but Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness" was able to lock the bathroom door and hide out long enough to wait out the attack. Grabbing a few million more than Sly's flick did, Smith's Oscar-baiting inspirational drama came in at #2, is now up over the $50 million hurdle and is possibly on its way to becoming yet another $100-million-grossing Will Smith movie. It's enough to make interns everywhere shriek with delight.

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie's lips might be protruding even more than usual these days, as she pouts over the disappointing debut of her high-wattage spy thriller "The Good Shepherd." Co-starring Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin and marking Robert De Niro's long-awaited follow-up to the cult classic "A Bronx Tale," "Shepherd" couldn't even herd in $10 million over the weekend. With moviegoers preferring to peep at other flicks this weekend, box-office prospects for the film seem to be dwindling as rapidly as its Oscar hopes.

Rounding out the top five, the Oprah-tastic "Charlotte's Web" continued to disappoint with an $8 million tally that would barely cover catering costs for the film's enormous cast. Despite the presence of Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, Andre 3000 and Dakota Fanning — and the fact that it shares its title with one of the most beloved children's books of all time — the barnyard family flick continues to wallow in its own disappointing returns. With "Eragon" ($7.1 million, sixth place) burning out and "We Are Marshall" ($6.6 million, seventh place) getting upset by fellow feel-good-sports-flick "Rocky," however, at least the talking pig has company.

How'd We Do?

In a rare show of unanimity, the two MTV movie geeks and our Hollywood special guest ("TMNT" director Kevin Munroe) all correctly predicted a Stiller-iffic weekend. We also unanimously overshot the box-office numbers a wee bit, so it's a good thing we don't play by "The Price is Right" rules around here. I pulled back into a tie with Josh Horowitz, and have big plans to amp up my game in 2007:

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (4)

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (4)

Celebrity guest (1)

In Perspective

Comedy superstar Ben Stiller has been known to oversaturate the market from time to time (with six movies in 2004, even Michael Caine was urging him to chill out!), but he now seems to be to Christmas what Will Smith once was to the Fourth of July. Continuing the dominance of his enormous 2004 holiday opening for "Meet the Fockers," the 41-year-old funnyman has a Santa cause to release a comedy every December. As he's also proven, however, the other months of the year can be good to him as well:

» "Madagascar" (2005) $28.1 million

» "Meet the Fockers" (2004) $46.1 million

» "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004) $30.1 million

» "Zoolander" (2001) $15.5 million

» "Meet the Parents" (2000) $28.6 million

Next Week

As we roll into the new year, half of all moviegoers seem eager to catch up on their mandatory Oscar-season goodness ("The Departed," "Dreamgirls," "The Queen"), while the rest are willing to take their chances with Hollywood's January-February dumping ground. Sure, every now and then a "Dark City" (February 1998) or "Hostel" (January 2006) is able to sneak in under the radar, but any film fan worth his popcorn salt will be rightfully suspicious of those "Code Name: The Cleaner" billboards popping up all over town.

The next seven days are filled with slow roll-outs of Oscar hopefuls — Cate Blanchett's Golden Globes juggernaut "Notes on a Scandal," Naomi Watts and Edward Norton's "The Painted Veil," Clive Owen's futuristic art film "Children of Men" and George Clooney and Blanchett's "The Good German" — and the high-profile continuation of a controversial horror remake ("Black Christmas"). If you're sick of the holiday sweets, however, you might be more inclined to check out two of the most under-hyped films of 2006, Guillermo del Toro's breathtaking fantasy "Pan's Labyrinth" and Tom Tykwer's equally out-of-the-box killer flick "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer."

In the next few weeks, critics will be offering up their yearly lists of great films that movie fans missed in 2006. So the question for next weekend might be whether you want to take a look at some art, or whether you'd rather go back to the "Museum" instead.

Check out everything we've got on "Night at the Museum", "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Rocky Balboa."

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