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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 1, 2023


Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill, Owen Wilson, Bill Hader, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Craig Robinson, Jon Bernthal, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Cherry, Rami Malek, Mizuo Peck, Eugene Levy, Jay Baruchel, Jody Hill, Clint Howard, George Foreman and The Jonas Brothers.

Screenplay by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.

Directed by Shawn Levy.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 105 minutes. Rated PG.

The original Night at the Museum in 2006 was a very clever idea (a museum where at night all the exhibits come to life) not all that well executed. However, it was cute for kids, somewhat amusing for adults and became a surprise smash hit.

Therefore, here is the inevitable sequel, in which the concept is still brilliant and at the same time rather squandered. There is very little that Smithsonian has to add to the original film, however it all is done on a much larger scale – hoping that with all the bells and whistles most kids won't notice they are watching essentially the same movie, but without the marginal element of freshness and surprise the original brought to the table.

Still, it will probably again be a sizable hit.

Whether it is worthy of this box-office bonanza is of course very much up for debate.

As happens all too often at this point in his career, star Ben Stiller goes through the motions in his return to the role of Larry Daley, the former museum night watchman of New York's Museum of Natural History. Somehow in the three years since Daley's career straits were so desperate that he had to take a night watchman job, he has become a multimillionaire infomercial king. He is an inventor who creates little gadgets based on the adventures in the first film. Apparently, there was an untapped market for dog bones big enough for a T-Rex. Larry has made his fortune but lost his "moxie," becoming a humorless workaholic.

Periodically he goes back to the old museum to recharge his batteries and visit his old friends. As the film starts, he goes to visit and finds that many of the exhibits are going to be mothballed and sent to the vast archives under the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

Larry makes a half-assed attempt to stop it, but then seems ready to give up when he suddenly gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson), saying that the monkey from the first film had brought the magical Egyptian tablet which brings them all to life. This has awakened an evil Egyptian pharaoh named Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) who wants to use the tablet for world domination.

It is never explained how a two-inch-tall cowboy could dial a telephone, or how he knew Larry's number, or whether he stood by the mouth piece or the earpiece, or even why his phone worked when later in the film, Larry's cell phone can not even get a signal while he is in the archives.

Larry flies down to Washington DC to save his friends and stop the bad guy, easily tricking a blowhard security guard (Jonah Hill in a kind of painfully bad scene) out of his ID and getting full access to the archives and all the museums, which have been thoughtfully thoroughly diagrammed on the internet.

I hope the Smithsonian, with perhaps the greatest store of historical and artistic treasures in the world, has a much better security system than the half-assed workings shown here. People and historical figures pop in and out of different buildings, exhibits roam the halls, planes smash through giant stained glass windows and not a single alarm goes off nor do any security guards pop their heads in to check out what the hell is going on.

As night comes, the Smithsonian comes to life, leading to a busy and kinda ridiculous showdown between good (Larry, Jedediah, Amelia Earhart [Amy Adams], Teddy Roosevelt [Robin Williams], General Custer [Bill Heder] and Octavius [Steve Coogan]) and evil (Kamunrah, Ivan the Terrible [Christopher Guest], Al Capone [Jon Bernthal] and Napoleon [Alain Chabat]).

Hank Azaria is the most consistently funny part of the film (he also voices Abe Lincoln and The Thinker) and his lisping accent somehow works perfectly, despite the fact he sounds much more British than Egyptian.

It's mostly all very childish humor, although there is one throw-away line about second base that is directly aimed at keeping the parents laughing. None of it was very good, but none of it was annoyingly bad either. It was all just very blah.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian does not aspire to be high art and it doesn't reach that level. However, the kids sitting around me seemed enthralled and the parents seemed somewhat amused, so I guess with the low expectations the filmmakers bring to the table, Museum 2 can relax and declare mission accomplished.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: May 23, 2009.


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