DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN (director: Shawn Levy; screenwriters: Robert Ben Garant/Thomas Lennon; cinematographer: John Schwartzman; editors: Don Zimmerman/Dean Zimmerman; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Ben Stiller (Larry Daley), Jake Cherry (Nick Daley), Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart), Owen Wilson (Jedediah), Hank Azaria (Kahmunrah/voice for Abe Lincoln), Christopher Guest (Ivan the Terrible), Alain Chabat (Napoleon), Steve Coogan (Octavius), Ricky Gervais (Dr. McPhee), Bill Hader (General Custer), Jon Bernthal (Al Capone), Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), Eugene Levy (voice for Albert Einstein), Mizuo Peck (Sacajawea); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Mr. Levy/Chris Columbus/Michael Barnathan; 20th Century Fox; 2009)

 
"The comedy is always lackluster, cumbersome and lacking a child's innocent playfulness."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Just as dreadful as the original is this uninspired kiddie comedy sequel. It's also helmed by filmmaker Shawn Levy ("The Pink Panther"/"Cheaper by the Dozen"/"Big Fat Liar"). For a film that was built around it being magical, it showed no signs of being magical--just gimmicky. The comedy is always lackluster, cumbersome and lacking a child's innocent playfulness. If you are wondering why it was remade in the same dreadful way, one should keep in mind that despite awful reviews for the original it took in $574 million B.O. in the international market. Also, the Museum of Natural History reported attendance was up 20% after "Night at the Museum," as the kiddies seemed to be stimulated by the film to ask their parents to take them there for a visit (even though the misinformed tour guide film hardly serves up an accurate history lesson, it at least serves a good purpose in creating interest for these historical figures it presents). 

In the first film, the likable divorced dad, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), was a nightwatchman at New York's Museum of Natural History who had to deal with exhibits that come to life. He's now a successful CEO entrepreneur of a company that invents gadgets, such as a glow-in-the-dark flashlight. Upon Larry's visit to the museum, the director Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais) explains that the longtime exhibits will be shipped to D.C.'s Smithsonian Federal Archives, as the NYC museum will now exhibit state-of-the-art holographic displays. Back home, Larry receives an SOS call from miniature cowboy Jed (Owen Wilson), one of the exhibits being shipped to the underground archive at the Smithsonian. Thereby the concerned Larry leaves his son (Jake Cherry) home alone and goes to the Smithsonian to help his waxwork friends. Larry, after sneaking into the underground storage area, finds Jed, the Roman soldier Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) are in danger. The exhibits need help as a fictional Egyptian pharaoh named Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), a newcomer to the series, is set on stealing the magical tablet that brings them to life so he can control the world and he has recruited Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat ) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) to help get the tablet from Larry. Larry is helped by the perky newcomer pioneer aviatrix Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), who plays her part with zest.

Comedy supposedly comes from Azaria’s evil lisping Pharaoh and the other newcomer Bill Hader, as the campy General Custer who aims to help Stiller. Also coming part of the action are some bobble-headed Einsteins and a giant marble Abraham Lincoln coming down from The Lincoln Memorial to kick butt and lecture about acting in unity.

The innocuous family entertainment film is for kids of about seven, who might find some laughs over the silly scenes with dinosaurs, kangaroos, monkeys slapping Stiller around and a giant squid. There are also a couple of paintings and sculptures that magically come to life, a balloon dog who jumps around the museum to amuse the kiddies and the entry of Larry and Amelia into Eisenstaedt's Kiss at Times Square photo that came as the end of WW II was announced. I really couldn't find many laughs for the adults accompanying the youngsters, but their reward for sitting through this overlong and awkward kiddie pic might be that it just gives them a chance to catch a few winks in their baby sitting duties as their kiddies are preoccupied with the movie.

REVIEWED ON 5/27/2009       GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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