Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

A Review by Jason L. King

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Amy Adams, Bill Heder, Owen Wilson & More…
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Rated: PG for mild action and brief language
Movie Released: 2009

Final Grade:

When a movie makes a boat load of money, you just can’t resist making a sequel. It’s sad, because sometimes you have to realize that lightning never strikes the same spot twice, no matter how much money you throw at it. Myth or truth, we’ve all heard the saying before and unfortunately the producers for Night at the Museum 2 must have missed school the day that old saying was taught.

Capitalizing on the huge success of the original Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller and friends return once again for a sequel to the 2006 Christmastime success that went on to make millions more on DVD. Stiller’s character, Larry Dalley, is now millionaire, making his cash from infomercial like products such as a glow in the dark flashlight. But when he hears the the Museum of Natural History is packing up the old exhibits and taking them to the Smithsonian archives, he finds himself missing his museum exhibit pals. And when he gets a call from his old exhibit friends who are being tormented by a once wax Egyptian Pharaoh, Dalley must break into the Smithsonian and save his old wax friends.

What this movie does well, is it brings back all of the old characters that you know and enjoyed in the original film and plops them down in a new scenario. However, the characters have evolved a bit and now have learned to live in the museum harmoniously together. Therefore, the plot begins to revolve around them teaming together to stop the other “exhibits” that don’t want to play nice. With that, you get a whole new cast of characters including an evil Pharaoh (played by Hank Azaria), Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte and more. With each of them wanting control of the tablet that brings them to life, they break out into a bitter battle that only Larry can stop.

Once again, Stiller does a great job in his role. Sure, sure, it is Ben Stiller playing Ben Stiller but you still have an over all fun time watching him. Many times when Stiller isn’t playing a “goofy” character like Derek Zoolander, I find him rather annoying. However, The Night at the Museum films seem to work well for him. Along side him you get a fun supporting performance by Owen Wilson, once again returning as Jedidiah, the pocket sized cowboy. Along with Hank Azaria joining the cast, the film welcomes new comers Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart) and Bill Hader (General Custer), as well as a plethora of other new characters. I mention Adams and Hader because they do a great job in some stand out performances.

Adams plays Earhart with ease, and while I always pictured Cate Blanchett playing the role, I really did enjoy the performance that Adams gave. She brought life to the Earhart character and I think for young-ins that have no idea what Earhart did in real life, it may spark their interest to find more out. Hader as Custer may have been one of the funniest characters in the whole movie. Hader plays the unknowingly dim witted Custer who barges head first into battle in a way that only George W. Bush could rival. As Hader’s character tries to come up with the perfect battle signal that will mean “attack” with out saying “attack” you find your self laughing out loud at the sheer stupidity.

Unfortunately, where this films goes wrong is that it becomes a cluttered mess. They manage to to take all of the old characters and introduce something just shy of 400 new characters and have them walking around Washington D.C. undetected. When you aren’t spending your time going “Who is that?” you are wondering how security in Washington D.C. is so lax that they don’t see memorial sized Abe Lincoln walking around the outskirts of the Smithsonian. Mix that in with the massive amounts of damages to structures, windows and buildings and you soon are longing for the contained space of the Museum of Natural History. At least in the original, you understood that the exhibits that come to life are not spotted because they pretty much stayed in the confines of the museum.

When you aren’t wondering if the rest of D.C. is dead and not noticing this, you are bombarded repeatedly by museum exhibit after exhibit coming to life and making quick and pointless appearances. There were so many characters I actually began to think I was watching a Brett Ratner version of X-Men and not Night at the Museum. Just like Ratner’s obsession with putting nearly every X-men ever created in X-men 3, the makers of Night at the Museum felt the need to try and include every one from history. Oddly enough, I think the only person they didn’t have make a cameo was Hitler, whom I thought would have made a nice addition to the Waxis of Evil. (Get it Waxis of Evil? Because they are all wax….never mind)

When this movie was all said and done, I’m not ashamed to admit I found enjoyment in it. While it is certainly not as good as the original and has many flaws, you find your self enjoying the ride. Well, at least enough to watch it once. Because Night at the Museum 2 felt forced to be “bigger”, “louder”, and “better” than its predecessor the end result became a cluttered film worth a one time view. However, this film carries very little re-watch value. All in all though, for a family movie night this film might be worth picking up at the local rental store. You just might have a good time, and have the kids asking about historical figures. And what’s wrong with having them watch a movie that might inspire them to learn?

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