Night at the Museum
Goofy… just goofy is the best way to describe Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the sequel to the 2006 mega hit that had a blast letting Ben Stiller loose in a Natural History Museum in which all of the exhibits came to life. Following the mantra that bigger is better Shawn Levy returns once again to direct and once again acts as a kid in a candy shop as this time around Stiller’s Larry is using the Smithsonian as his own personal playground. The plot device used to move the storyline to the Smithsonian (and thus get them that reported $1.25 million they are getting out of the deal) is pretty flimsy. All of Larry’s friends/exhibits (except for Teddy Roosevelt) are being packed up and sent into deep storage underneath the Smithsonian. Then while they are in transit a war breaks out over the magical tablet that allows them to come to life. Larry, with apparently nothing better to do, hops on down from New York to save the day. From that
point on you pretty much know what is in store for you, big special effects and movie stars playing historical dress up.
This film is written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, two of the writers/stars of Reno 911, and you can see the effect that that show has here. The plot thread is very loose, and it seems to only serve as a way to move from one silly sketch to the next. The difference being that these sketches involve historical figures not cops. We have Kahmunrah (evil ruler of Egypt played by Hank Azaria, great) recruiting Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible, and Napoleon to his evil army but unfortunately they can’t get past banalities such as fashion. Or there is the one where The Thinker (as in the statue) is too distracted by a piece of pretty female stone to give any advice to our heroes. In times like these, when they are just aiming for small giggle, they are more successful than when they are trying to wow the audience with special effects (which are quite impressive by the way). Oscar the Grouch shows up on the big screen for the first time since what? "Follow That Bird" (1985)? Now that’s a comeback. Darth Vader is also here which left me wondering what kind of paycheck was in it for George Lucas just to roll his super villain on screen for a two minute scene.
Ultimately the negatives outweigh the positives, though I would rather watch this one than the original. According to the writers all historical figures ever are pretty much the same. They are part idiot, part pussycat, and all suffering from some sort of mental illness and/or retardation. And just because Larry gets stuck with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) as his sidekick doesn’t mean that they have to become emotionally involved. Why do it at all? Tradition? Do the kids that this film is aimed at really get a lot out of a romantic subplot? Did Earhart have a reputation for being easy? There is also an over reliance on chaos. Nothing is ever required to add up because they just keep hopping from one chaotic scene to the next. I’m assuming that it is done in hopes of distracting you away from the fact that there is no continuity here. And why does everything have to be so excessive? They can’t just have a happy ending, they have to go for some sort of world record in the sappy happy ending category… but my complaints are starting to pile up. Their heart is in the right place and occasionally the film is entertaining but all of that is lost under an avalanche of wanting to be the biggest, loudest, most awesome summer blockbuster ever.
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