One of Robin Williams’ many unforgettable roles was that of Teddy Roosevelt in the Night At the Museum series. It wasn’t the only time Williams played a President–he also took a turn as Dwight D. Eisenhower in The Butler–but his Teddy is memorable as well. While the real Roosevelt famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” Robin Williams’ TR would have intoned, “Speak loudly and throw in a few jump scares for good measure.”
The Night At the Museums movies, are of course, the adventures of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), who is kind of a deadbeat until he becomes a security guard at Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History. As everyone who’s seen these films knows, by way of the magic Tablet of Akmenra, the exhibits come to life and make Larry’s job very unpredictable until he learns the rules. Lock up the lion. Watch out for the monkey because he’ll take your keys and slap you. Give gum to the Easter Island head. Above all, don’t let anyone or anything in or out. Any figures caught outside will be changed to dust when the sun comes up.
Since Teddy and the other characters are portrayed at one stage of their lives in the exhibits, they’re not going to be dynamic in the typical sense, but they are there to serve a purpose. Teddy’s purpose is to give Larry some classic Bullmoose-type pep-talks now and then, especially when Larry starts to lose his nerve. So much so that the guy’s a walking soundbyte.
With that in mind, may I present my entirely subjective, ordered-by-film (and mostly spoiler-free, if anyone needs that)…
Teddy’s Top Nine Quotes
1. “Man must look inward if he is to find his own answers.”
Larry’s first night on the job is tumultuous, and this one statement is a neat bit of foreshadowing. Instead of walking away from his new challenge or expecting others to walk him through it, Larry starts doing his homework and getting creative. He comes to the job prepared the next night, with a duffel bag that includes a giant wad of Big League Chew for the Easter Island head and toy keys for the capuchin.
2. “There’s a 25-foot jackal staring at you right now. Don’t make eye contact!”
Gotta watch those giant jackals–they can smell fear.
3. “I’m made of wax, Larry. What are you made of?”
Nothing like a hefty dose of reality when the entire Museum of Natural History is running wild in Manhattan and one is locked in the African tundra exhibit.
4. “Sometimes the greatest change brings about even greater opportunity.”
More foreshadowing, only this one comes right before Larry has to jet off to the Smithsonian. If that’s not greater opportunity, then I don’t know what is. Maybe the Louvre.
5. “Bird, man with spear, sideways fish, beetle, vase.”
Teddy gets around, and in Washington, D.C. he shows up as a bust. A bust who can read hieroglyphics.
6. “What am I, the Sphinx? What’s this? What’s that? Why don’t you ask New York Teddy? I bet he’d love to get his grabby little fingers all over that thing. I’ll bet he’ll let his horse lick it, too.”
And oh yeah, a bust with body envy. Easy there, TR.
7. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
When the Tablet of Akmenra develops a little rust problem, everyone gets mixed up. In addition to John F. Kennedy, Teddy quotes his distant cousin as well.
8. “No idea that would work.”
Which is exactly what one should say after falling through M.C. Escher’s “Relativity.”
9. “Never run from a big cat, Lawrence.”
Not even the giant bronze lions in Trafalgar Square. Remember, Larry: Cats love chasing things. Kind of an odd quote to end on, but Teddy’s always a great one for advice.
These movies have gotten mixed reviews, but one of the things that’s terrific about them is that the actors complimented each other so well. The casts of all three Museums were adept at ad-libbing, so Williams fit right in, and they would try to get each other to laugh. When Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Ricky Gervais, Christopher Guest, and Robin Williams were all on a set together, it must have been a perfect comedic storm.
As crazy as the Museums are, the last film always makes me feel a bit melancholy because it was not only a goodbye to the characters, but it was the final time Robin Williams was seen onscreen. As was so typical of his life, the man left us (and Larry) on a hopeful note:
“Smile, my boy. It’s sunrise.”
Thank you, Robin. We will never forget you.
Okay, that’ll do it for my Day Three. Gill and Crystal have more Robin for you at their blogs as per usual. Thanks for hosting this event, ladies! It was fun getting to go down Memory Lane a bit and revisit the unique artistry that was Robin Williams. So many miss him very much, myself included.
As for the future, well, January’s been kind of a light month, but itty-bitty February won’t be. Two “Origins” posts are in the pipeline, plus we have a few special events coming up:
If anyone wants to get in on these, please see Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood, Kristina at Speakeasy, Ruth at Silver Screenings, and Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Thanks for reading! See you in a couple of days with a look at Clark Gable…