Sunday, June 28, 2009

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian


In NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has traded in his night security guard uniform for a suit and tie as an inventor and TV pitchman. He still swings by the Museum of Natural History to see his old friends that make up the exhibits, but his visits have become fewer during the couple years since their initial adventure.

Larry learns that new interactive holographic terminals are replacing the old displays, which are being packed and shipped to the Smithsonian's archives. Ahkmenrah's tablet is staying in New York, though, which means that miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Roman soldier Octavius (Steve Coogan), and pals will not come to life at night in Washington D.C.

To their benefit and Larry's aggravation, the sticky-fingered Capuchin monkey steals the tablet and takes it along to the Smithsonian. There the pharoah Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) tries to get it so he can summon an underworld army to help him rule the planet. Larry poses as a security guard so he can infiltrate the nineteen Smithsonian museums and thwart the pharoah's plans.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN collects and unveils a who's who of television and film comedians like an institution amasses and showcases artifacts. Jonah Hill gets a funny scene as a Smithsonian guard who confronts Stiller as he is about to touch an exhibit. Bill Hader contributes some amusing moments as a tactically-challenged General Custer who is obsessed with his golden locks.

Azaria's Kahmunrah draws laughs from overestimating what he deems to be his fearsome resurrection, and in a charming turn Amy Adams plays aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart as a screwball spitfire. Ricky Gervais and Mindy Kaling are also worth noting in minor roles while Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible and THE OFFICE'S Craig Robinson are among those whose talents are squandered.

Descended from the big budget family films of the 1980s, the first NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM was an enjoyable amusement park ride through the halls of history. The sequel has its moments too, mostly due to the fine cast, but this repeat spin gets a little wearying.

The fatigue stems from the characters running among buildings on the National Mall rather than kicking back with old favorites and new acquaintances alike. Just like on a family's summer vacation, when the pressure is on to cram in as many activities and to appeal to every member every second, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN can be too cluttered and hyperactive to appreciate its broad pleasures.

Grade: C+

(Photos TM and © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.)

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