Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

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“Gigantor” is again how figurine-turned-real cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) refers to night watchman Larry (Ben Stiller) in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a nickname that would have sufficed as a subtitle for this sequel, which is primarily distinguishable from its predecessor by a bigger budget, cast, and venue. Having made himself into an infomercial mogul selling inventions based on his past adventure (a super-big dog bone! An un-lose-able key ring!), Larry is called back into duty when his friends at Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History are shipped off to D.C.’s Smithsonian archives and their magical tablet brings everything to life. It’s a setup staged lifelessly, as director Shawn Levy remains unable to convey the type of grand, awe-inspiring scope and wonder that his material requires. Scale, though, certainly comes into play—literally, if not imaginatively—once Larry infiltrates the Smithsonian’s storage area and winds up in a battle against evil Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), who has enlisted Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), and Napoleon (Alain Chabat) in his plans to conquer the world. Commotion ensues, most of it functionally but unexcitingly executed, including an into-the-artwork sequence that pales in comparison to a similar bit from Loony Tunes: Back in Action. Wielding his flashlight like a revolver and/or sword, Larry races about the museum’s many buildings accompanied by Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), who falls for Larry and—in the story’s perfunctorily handled thematic arc—helps him regain his “moxie” by teaching him that happiness comes from loving what you do. Excitedly spouting anachronistic slang, Adams is a buoyant antidote to the encompassing insanity, which boasts so many characters that both the new (General Custer, Abe Lincoln) and the old (Teddy Roosevelt, Sacagawea) register only fleetingly. Stiller’s respective prolonged verbal jousts with Jonah Hill’s guard and Kahmunrah feel strained, but nonetheless generate the only comedic sparks, as Battle of the Smithsonian otherwise falls flat trying to muster up any mirth or suspense as it barrels from one set piece to the next. There’s something mildly endearing about this history-drenched adventure’s subtly espoused celebration of American “ingenuity” and “can-do” spirit. One wishes, however, said qualities weren’t so noticeably lacking throughout.

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Distributor
20th Century Fox
Runtime
105 min
Rating
PG
Year
2009
Director
Shawn Levy
Screenwriter
Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
Cast
Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill hader, Jon Bernthal, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Cherry, Rami Malek, Mizuo Peck