Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian
Sequels are one of the trickier types of movies possible, not only for audience reaction and the all important box office but also from a production point of view. Unlike the original there are now notable expectations heaped upon the sequel especially if the original was a surprise hit. This is the case with ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’. The first flick was generally regarded as a delightful flight of pure imagination suitable for the entire family. A silly themed movie like this is more of a risk than usual. The flick ‘Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium’ also deals with a usually normal setting infused with wondrous magic. Both films had an ‘A’ list start or two in the cast and were heavily dependent of cutting edge special effects. ‘Magorium’ met with a lackluster reception while ‘Museum’ fared much better with critics and audiences, at least sufficiently to warrant this sequel. Naturally there were several other factors at work resulting in the observed results. ‘Museum’ had much more to offer the adults in the audience greatly broadening the overall appeal. Still, with that said ‘Smithsonian’ does suffer from the common trap of the sequel; trying too hard to be better than the first but not hard enough to be a good movie on its own. When you look back at the rare sequels that exceeded their predecessors, like ‘Godfather II’ they were great movies first and foremost that just happened to be sequels. In this particular instance the movie is tied much too closely to the original. Almost all of the humor is just an extension of joke already played out in the first movie. Hopefully this will be the end of the series before the attempt to turn it into yet another franchise with constantly diminishing returns driving an initially cute, playful premise completely into the ground.
One red flag that immediately goes up is the writing staff. While both of the primary authors of the screenplay are very well versed with comedy either were attached to the original story. In the case it did provide a modicum of a fresh twist on the tale at hand. Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon have worked extensively together largely in improvisational comedy shows on television such as ‘The State’ and ‘Reno911’. Both shows have a strong cult following based on the off beat sense of slightly twisted humor. The comedy presented here is much broader than their TV series and really not indicative of their combined talents. The script has its moments but they are too widely spread to keep the story from appearing pedantic.
Directing this opus was Shawn Levy who has exactly the right background for his work here. He directed the original flick as well as a guilty personal guilty pleasure of mine the Steve Martin remake of ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’. This movie does have the timing down very well pacing it so that the audience is given just enough exposition to set this flick up and connect it to the previous one and then Levy dives directly into what the audience wants and expects, the animation of the exhibits. As the movie starts former museum guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), has finally gotten his inventions on track and is now the CEO of his own company, Daley Devices. In New York the Museum of Natural History is closed for renovations. The plans include replacing many of the long standing exhibits with state of the art modern multimedia displays. The replaced displays are slated to be stored in the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. He receives a frantic message from his diminutive friend Jeddah (Owen Wilson). The magic ancient tablets that are responsible for bringing the exhibits to life at night have been stolen while they were enjoying their last night of life. A battle breaks out between a good and evil awaken pharaoh over the tablets forcing many of the exhibits to take sides in the resulting conflict.
The change in venue did permit the writers to incorporate many cultural references ranging from Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) to Darth Vader (Thomas Morley) added to fan favorites that include the little monkey and T-Rex skeleton. For the most part the acting is not up to what this cast has proven they are capable of doing. Robin Williams was far too restrained at least by his comic standards. The one performance that sets itself apart by means of sheer joyful exuberance is that given by Ms Adams, I have to encounter a role she has taken on that did not come across as exceptional. While not up to the bar set by the first film this one is pleasant enough and the entire family can enjoy some popcorn while watching it.
- Audio Commentary By Director Shawn Levy