Directed by: Shawn Levy
Premise: A sequel to the 2006 film. The exhibits from the Museum of Natural History are shipped to the Smithsonian and bring an entirely new cast of historical characters to life, including Egyptian pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) who plots to take over the world with the help of other evil historical figures. Museum security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) works with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) and other exhibits to maintain order in the museum.
What Works: The filmmakers use the bigger scope of Battle of the Smithsonian to their advantage and there is plenty of action and physical comedy. The film is primarily aimed at children and they will likely find the film entertaining. The banter between Ben Stiller as Larry and Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart is some of the best material in the film and gives Battle of the Smithsonian its only opportunity for character development.
What Doesn’t: The main problem with Battle of the Smithsonian is its lack of any discernible story. The film rolls along anecdotally, as though the screenwriters went on a tour of the Smithsonian and came up with what they thought would be neat action sequences and opportunities for humor, but they have not strung those scenes together in a way that makes narrative sense. As a result, the film paints itself into a corner where it floods the story with characters but doesn’t spend any time with them. Battle of the Smithsonian does not have any of the great interpersonal relationships of the first film like the one between Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Jedediah Smith (Owen Wilson) or Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck) and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams). The film falls prey to roller coaster ride mentality, hoping that the action and humor will distract the audience from the lack of story or substance. Unfortunately, the action scenes are very limited in what they can do and the humor is not very funny. The jokes of Battle of the Smithsonian suffer in part because they are very repetitious, either recapitulating the same gags from the first film or applying the awkward comedic style that Ben Stiller does so well to nearly every other character in the film, making them all sound the same.
Bottom Line: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian might appeal to children but their parents or anyone else who enjoyed the first film will likely be disappointed. The sense of wonder of the original is lost in the sequel and the best the filmmakers have been able to do is to take the gimmick and stretch it beyond its means.
Episode: #241 (May 31, 2009)