Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – Review

Does so little with so much.

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Director: Shawn Levy
Notable Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Bill Hader, Christopher Guest, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill

When history looks back upon Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, it’ll take a team of film historians and critics to figure out what went wrong. With $150 million to spend, perhaps the strongest group of comedic talent assembled in one decade and a successful formula to boot, it’s disappointing to see that the sequel to Night at the Museum exists purely because the first made an obscene amount of money.

Larry (Ben Stiller) has left the Museum of Natural History behind for life as a successful businessman. Having developed his quirky ideas into top selling items around the house, Larry has given up his historical friends at the museum for a life running a successful company. When his abandoned friends are moved to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C, in the name of new interactive exhibits, his guilt at moving forward with his life coupled with preventing an Egyptian Pharaoh (Hank Azaria) from unleashing an army of his dead followers upon the world combine for another wacky adventure on the overnight shift at a museum.

And for all the talent, and this is a disgustingly loaded cast, the film has no real reason to exist other than that the first film made a ton of money. The film itself is just the first film recycled with more historical figures and a bigger budget. There isn’t anything new or interesting added into the film sans a love interest, famed pilot Amelia Ear hart (Amy Adams), and as such it doesn’t give us anything more and exciting than the first film. It’s a step back in many ways, as the film recycles plenty of gags from the first in slightly new variants.

The other problem is that most of the best talent in the film is used in what are glorified cameos. Ricky Gervais has two brief scenes and Jonah Hill has half that; Craig Robinson has a couple of throwaway lines. This is a cast that if used en masse could make for a comedy where everyone is going for the killer shot; it seems other players are short shrift for the same tired gags involving Stiller. He still does them well, but he’s given too much in comparison to the rest of the cast.

There is one positive in Night at the Museum 2 a lone bright spot if you will. Amy Adams continues to elevate every character and film she’s involved in and this is no exception. Whereas this is standard genre performances from most involved, as the best gags are given away in the trailer, Adams somehow seems to be under the impression that this is a good film and acts accordingly. Every time she’s on the screen it’s a delight, as we want to imagine Earhart was the type of sweetheart that Adams portrays her as (she wasn’t). A serious drama with Adams in that role would be interesting based on what she does with the character here; she steals every scene she’s involved in and her banter with Stiller makes for the funniest scenes in the film.

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is undoubtedly going to make a ton of money and be an effective family film in light of the action-oriented films coming out en masse in the next several months. The problem is that it is so mediocre and repetitive of the first that it exists purely because Night at the Museum crossed $200 million domestically.


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