Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and brief language
Release Date: May 22, 2009
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Plot Synopsis: Former security guard Larry Daley has had huge success with his household inventions but he misses his magical nights spent in New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Back for a visit, he discovers the entire collection, including all of his exhibit-dwelling friends and the magical Egyptian tablet, have been deemed antiquated and are being put into storage in the Federal Archives below the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
But when Larry gets a frantic phone call from the tiny cowboy Jebediah informing him of an impending disaster at their new home, he races to D.C. to help. There he finds that the whole Smithsonian museum complex has come to life and the newly awoken Egyptian pharaoh Kamunrah is plotting to take over the world.
Sex/Nudity: A romance blossoms between Larry and Amelia Earhart, who kisses Larry passionately a few times. The Thinker statue flirts with another statue.
Violence/Gore: Kamunrah threatens Larry and his friends with henchmen carrying large spears. They chase Larry through the grounds of the Smithsonian. A giant squid attacks them, protecting Larry. The capuchin monkeys and Larry get into a slap fest. Kamunrah unleashes a horde of eagle headed minions on our heroes, but Larry drives the bird monsters back into the underworld. Larry and Kamunrah have an elaborate sword fight.
Profanity: Amelia tells Larry, “Dammit, I want in!”
Which Kids Will Like It?
Elementary age children will be amused by the artifacts come to life and the mischievous capuchins monkeys, but you'll have to explain all of the historical and artistic references afterwards.
Will Parents Like It?
While the cast boasts a roster of comedy A-listers from Ricky Gervais to Steve Coogan, the lameness of the main story line may have them checking their watches.
Kaboose Review: When you have a good premise (and over $500 million in box office receipts) it's tough to let it go. You can almost picture the Night at the Museum studio executives musing around a conference table: "How do we make our blockbuster movie set in the Museum of Natural History into a sequel? We know! Go even bigger by doing it in the gargantuan Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C."
And that's exactly what they did in this sequel entitled Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, a larger museum does not necessarily make for a better movie. Dopey slapstick, goofy secondary characters, and elaborate effects may impress very young viewers but the lack of an original storyline will make this film boring to everyone else.
Ben Stiller once again plays Larry Daley, but the former security guard at the American Natural History Museum has found fame and fortune as inventor of successful infomercial products. But even though his life is great, Larry finds himself missing all of his friends in the exhibits at the museum. On a late night visit to his old haunt, he discovers many of the models packed up and being shipped to storage at the Smithsonian Institution.
But just when Larry thinks he's said goodbye to his waxwork friends, he gets a frantic call from Jebediah (Owen Wilson) explaining to him that the magical tablet that brought the exhibits to life at the Natural History Museum has also been transferred to the Smithsonian. So now the awoken Egyptian pharaoh Kamunrah (Hank Azaria) is using its powers, as well as help from Napoleon, Ivan the Terrible, and Al Capone, to take over the world.
Knowing that he's one of the only people who can help, Larry sneaks into the museum on the National Mall to help his friends and teams up with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), a statue of Lincoln from the Lincoln Memorial, the Tuskegee Airmen, a capuchin monkey named Able, and cast of other characters.
The Smithsonian's collection covers numerous topics and eras, so it offers the opportunity for the filmmakers to make any number of wacky tableaus to come to life. Some of these half-baked gags are weak, such as a muscleheaded version of Rodin's "The Thinker" or a cameo by pop sensations Jonas Brothers as a trio of serenading cherub statues doing Bee Gee covers.
On the other hand, there are some strokes of genius, such as a dynamic extended sequence in the air and space hangar featuring a bevy of airplanes zooming to and fro. Equally brilliant was casting Adams as the spitfire aviatrix Earhart. Her sparkling eyes, old time moxie and colloquial jargon are adorable. Too bad her chemistry with Stiller doesn't set off any sparks. Stiller's performance is lacking, with a consistantly belabored facial expression and an exasperated tone, his befuddled everyman shtick gets old quickly.
Although Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is one of the many summer movies being projected in some theaters on the gigantic, curved 72 x 53 foot IMAX screens, you're better off saving your IMAX experience on a far worthier picture.
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller (Larry Daley), Hank Azaria (Kamunrah, voice of the Thinker, Abe Lincoln), Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart), Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), Owen Wilson (Jedediah), Christopher Guest (Ivan the Terrible), Steve Coogan (Octavius), Ricky Gervais (Dr. McPhee), Bill Hader (General Custer)
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.