Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Even though the first ‘Night at the Museum’ released a couple of years ago backed up the Brinks truck to the bank and drove off with its cargo hold overflowing with loot, it really wasn’t a very good movie. Personally I thought it was a fairly artless affair with a paint by numbers story line with the main attraction of the film being that it featured some guys in a backroom somewhere with some powerful computers and top shelf software who really knew how to make some stuff happen. Now we have the inevitable sequel to that film with Ben Stiller reprising his role as security guard Larry Daley with ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’ which is worse in every conceivable way than a first film which wasn’t all that good, with one notable exception; those guys in the backroom have got even more powerful computers and way better software to make even more stuff happen. Success is assured.

We remember from the first film that Larry Daley was a failed inventor taking on a night job at a museum to make ends meet. Now Larry is successful inventor hawking his goods Ron Popeil style in probably the movies best and funniest scene which features everybody’s favorite old Heavyweight Champ George Foreman and no CGI effects. Because Larry is so busy running his new and highly successful business he hasn’t been down to the museum to check on his imaginary friends and when he finally does get there he finds out that all the old exhibits are being boxed and shuttled off for permanent storage at the Smithsonian archives with the museum undergoing significant renovations and migrating to holographic presentations.

This makes Larry and his imaginary friends sad but there’s nothing he can do and life goes on. Then one fateful day Larry gets a call from the depths of the Smithsonian from the cowboy Jedidiah (Owen Wilson). We did wonder how a one inch figurine found a way to use a telephone in a museum basement but obviously logic went out

the window for this movie three years ago. Apparently that magical tablet has made its way to the basement along with our imaginary friends and in addition to reanimating everything at the Smithsonian it has also animated the evil Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) who has aligned himself with some of history’s worst, such as Al Capone and Ivan the Terrible, and plans to take possession of the tablet to rule the world. Or something along those lines.

Now Larry has to rush to D.C., find a way around the incredibly loose security at the Smithsonian, don his old night watchman uniform and flashlight and hopefully save the world. To help him in this task he has some old standbys in Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), the microscopic Octavius (Steve Coogan), Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) and new allies General George Custer (Bill Hader) and the plucky Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). Will Larry find a way to save the day and also recover his lost ‘moxie’? I don’t want spoil it for you but…

So after watching ‘Battle of the Smithsonian’ I’m thinking director Shawn Levy, working with ‘Reno 911’ legends and the films writers Robert Ben Grant and Thomas Lennon came up with as much cool stuff they could think of, went to those guys in the backroom with the computers and asked them if they could pull it off, found out what they could or could not do and worked backwards from there to write some junk to bracket the CGI effects. Seriously, this movie was terminable. We can’t blame the guys in the backroom with the computers for this because as usual they were on their A-Game making statues come to life and bobble heads talk and all kinds of magical movie stuff, but when we got away from the CGI and the movie tried to be funny, well that just didn’t work out all that well. Sometimes it felt like failed improvisation, but most of the time it was just badly written humor performed by people who I know are funny. Ben Stiller isn’t all that funny but Ben Stiller has gotten rich being the straight man, however if Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Christopher Guest and Hank Azaria can’t consistently make me laugh then somebody somewhere screwed up. Bill Hader as George Custer was pretty funny though and Amy Adams running around in spandex khakis was completely adorable but that was about it.

So I didn’t like this movie all that much but that’s okay because it is rated PG and thus it is mostly a kids movie. Sure Pixar has cracked the code on how to make kids movies which manage to entertain adults but everybody isn’t Pixar. At the original ‘Night at the Museum’ show I went to, the kids in the audience loved that movie. I didn’t care for it but the kids were in stitches. This one not so much. Unless those monkeys were slapping people it was an oddly silent in screener packed full of kids who as time went on became more interested in begging for Skittles than actually watching the movie. Mmmm… Skittles.

Ah, doesn’t matter. It’s Memorial Day weekend, the TV trailer is cool mostly because it has an Oscar the Grouch cameo, parents can’t afford to take their kids to Six Flags or Disneyland and ‘Up!’ won’t be released for another couple of weeks. Gotta do something to entertain these brats on a long weekend. Back that Brinks truck up to the bank and get that money.

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