|Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Brittani Simberg|
|Tuesday, 26 May 2009|
Full disclosure: I never saw the first Night at the Museum, so I cannot compare it to its sequel. I can only judge the new one on its own merits, which, unfortunately, are lacking. When I saw the preview for the original, it seemed silly. Neither the premise nor the cast interested me very much. I had tired of Ben Stiller’s angry little man routine sometime between Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers (yes, I enjoy Meet the Fockers, but for Deniro/Danner and Hoffman/Streisand and not really for Ben Stiller at all). Robin Williams’ career had taken a seriously tragic turn that showed no sign of reversing (Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man, Death to Smoochy? I won’t go on, but sadly, I could. Alas, Mork – how did you ever let this happen?) The only thing that amused me at all was the t-rex skeleton that thought it was an oversized dog. I imagine that’s the sort of pet that comes in handy when defending a museum… or if you have a really big ball you don’t know what to do with. It wasn’t enough to convince me to part with ten bucks and two hours of prime yuletide cheer, so I passed.
The scale is far grander now, as well. Two screenwriters (Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon) sit down to write a move about a museum whose exhibits come to life at night. When the museum in question is the Natural History Museum in Manhattan, there are plenty of options for them to exploit – cavemen and animals and cowboys and Indians. When the museum in question is the Smithsonian, the largest museum in the world, comprising of 19 different museums under the same umbrella, the options are endless. Indeed, Garant and Lennon do not waste the opportunity before them, providing us with a movie filled with gags inspired by art, science, history, aeronautics, pop culture and even the museum gift shop. Sadly, the endless gags, some of which are downright delightful, are not enough to save the movie. In fact, it seemed the writers were so concerned with jamming their cleverness in, the plot was at most an afterthought. Clean and compelling, it is not.
There are only three possible reasons you might want to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: 1) Hank Azaria, who is evil and hilarious at the same time, 2) Amy Adams, who manages to turn a polished impersonation of a ‘30s screwball comedy heroine into the most real and only emotional performance in the film or 3) your kid just won’t shut up until you take him (and fyi – I saw this with a theater full of kids and they didn’t laugh that much either).
As is all too freaking common these days, the funniest moments of the film are in the preview (who do I write to about this practice? PLEASE send me names and addresses). By the time you see The Thinker showing off his guns, or the Lincoln Memorial Abe statue giving Stiller romance advice, the power of the moment is long gone. Director Shawn Levy gives us a film whose best bits have been ruined, whose plot is a mess, and whose lead character is that worst of movie-star sins – boring (and has the Jonas brothers playing creepy singing/flying cherub statues – I almost had to close my eyes). You may want to do what I did with the original and pass. That is, of course, unless you love Amy Adams as much as I do.