2006's A Night at the Museum was a one-trick-pony that thrived on its unique premise of imagining what goes on inside a museum after the lights go out. Tiny dioramas came to life, life-size exhibits of cavemen and soldiers re-animated, and giant skeletons of dinosaurs rampaged through the hallowed halls of New York's American Museum of Natural History. Fun for sure, but it began to wear thin about half way through that film and although the writers of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian attempt to breathe new life into the idea by moving the proceedings to the popular Washington D.C. museum, it's not enough to simply change the location and add a few new characters.
It's a bit ironic that Ben Stiller and director Shawn Levy would only agree to do this follow-up film if they could get their hands on a great script, because it's the script by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (the same guys who wrote the first one) that fails the entire film. The writers clearly worked under the assumption that â"more is better," because their end product offers too much of the same, and not enough new.
This one picks up with Larry (Ben Stiller), who has left his low-paying museum night watchman job to become owner and pitchman of his own company that makes cheap infomercial products. He's now a successful entrepreneur, but something is missing from his life. Something he feels can only be regained by going back to the Museum of Natural History where he once had the magical night of his lifetime. But once there, he discovers that his beloved exhibits including the diorama figures of Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Jedadiah (Owen Wilson) are to be stashed away in underground storage at the Smithsonian. The museum is to be updated with more modern, interactive displays. A teary-eyed Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) informs Larry that they're all doomed to their packing crates forever since the life-giving Egyptian tablet won't be moving with them.
But when Larry arrives in D.C. he discovers that the capuchin monkeys had brought the tablet along after all. And soon all the exhibits in the underground storage vault come to life... as well as every painting and sculpture on display in all of the Smithsonian museums.
There's a creative disconnect in Battle of the Smithsonian though because that magical sense of wonderment in seeing the exhibits come to life in the first films is not as strong this time around. We've seen it all before. We are treated to a few new techniques however as famous paintings - including Robert Doisneau's famous kiss photograph - become three-dimensional playgrounds. Not enough though too little, too late.
A potential love interest for Larry takes the form of famous aviator Amelia Earhart played by Amy Adams. But Adams is all but wasted as she's given very little to do and the chemistry between the two is virtually non-existent. The proceedings come to a screeching halt whenever the two are on the screen together.
Meanwhile down in the basement, the evil Pharaoh Kahmunrah (played with an over-the-top lisp by Hank Azaria) has enlisted some of the museum bad guys, including Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), and Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat) in an evil plot to use the golden tablet to unleash an ancient army for global domination. It's up to Larry and his old friends - and some new ones - to return the evil Egyptian despot to his rightful place.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian more closely resembles the tradeshow floor at an annual CGI conference than it does a movie with a coherent focus. Every imaginable trick and gadget is on full display with a parade of menagerie characters and computer generated scenarios. Even the statue of Abe Lincoln gets involved even though it seems to be made of butter rather than marble. If only a miniscule amount of the CGI budget had gone to the script, the film could have been an enjoyable time at the movies. Instead, it's just a silly rehash of the first installment with a few new characters and plenty more whiz-bang computer imagery. And just because the film's target audience is the younger crowd, doesn't mean it can't be entertaining for the adults as well.
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; behind-the-scenes featurette; deleted scenes; gag reel; alternate ending.
- Feature-length commentary track with Director Shawn Levy.
- Feature-length commentary track with Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
- Curators of Comedy: Behind The Scenes with Ben Stiller
- Gag Reel
- Phinding Pharaoh With Hank Azaria
- Cherub Bootcamp
Deleted Scenes - Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Shawn Levy
Number of Discs: 2 with Keepcase Packaging
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