Published May 22, 2009Although all the basic elements of the original Night at the Museum movie return for the Smithsonian sequel, the magic has, sadly, left the building. Where the original film was a storybook family romp through a museum brought to life, Battle of the Smithsonian is little more than an excuse for a special effects extravaganza and some shtick-y mugging for the camera by some of Hollywood's comedy elite.
In the first Night at the Museum movie audiences were swept away into a comic book history lesson with night watchman Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), as the nighttime museum came to life before his eyes. Battle of the Smithsonian picks up Larry's story several years later; he's now a successful infomercial businessman/inventor, with his nights at New York's Natural History Museum long behind him.
When the museum needs to make room for new high tech exhibits all Larry's old friends are packed up and shipped off to the Smithsonian's dusty archives, never to come to life again. Dexter, the capuchin monkey, manages to steal the magical tablet that brings the exhibits to life and soon Larry is called to Washington to help stop an evil Egyptian king from taking over the world.
In the original movie both Larry and the audience shared the same awe and excitement when the displays came to life, not knowing what to expect, as everyone from Genghis Khan to Teddy Roosevelt roamed the museum hallways. Battle of the Smithsonian follows the formula of the original movie so closely that the delight wears thin and, with both Stiller's character and the audience now used to the living displays, the tension wanes.
Hank Azaria's pantomime-style villain, compared of the manic wrath of Genghis Khan in the first film, and the tacked on love story between Larry and Amelia Earheart (Amy Adams) only serve to further sap the film's dramatic tension. All that's left are some fun special effects, a lot of running around and being chased, and a kid-friendly film that fills the F-rated slot on the summer blockbuster calendar.
Kids will enjoy revisiting the living museum and, although parents won't find anything particularly enjoyable, neither will they find anything objectionable for younger viewers. (Fox)