Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
20th Century Fox
Plot Summary: An evil pharaoh is brought to life in the Smithsonian, and former museum night guard, Larry, must rescue his friends who have been taken hostage.
Reason for the Rating: Mild action and brief language
Larry (Ben Stiller) used to love his job as a night guard at a museum where the exhibits would come alive each night because of a powerful Egyptian tablet. But Larry became a successful entrepreneur, inventing goofy gadgets like the glow-in-the dark flashlight and left his guard job behind.
One day he goes back to find that the old exhibits, including all his friends, are being shipped off for permanent storage in the Smithsonian. The Egyptian tablet goes with them, and all of the Smithsonian comes alive with it, including Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), an Egyptian pharaoh bent on world domination. Larry must find a way into the Smithsonian after hours to save his friends and bring the tablet back where it belongs.
This movie is peppered with promise in actors like Amy Adams as Amelia Aerhart, Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible, Owen Wilson as Jedidiah Smith, and Bill Hader as General Custer. But the promise is squandered. Instead of delivering entertainment, the bloated preponderance of characters and ideas and plot threads lead the viewer through a confusing and lifeless maze of muck.
Adams’ perky Earhart is thoroughly unsurprising Adams. I like Adams, but I wish she would do more than be ridiculously sunny. The thoroughly funny Guest isn’t a bit funny in this movie, and most of the other characters aren’t even given a chance, so tired and predictable are their lines. (Enter Napoleon short jokes here.) Azaria’s Kahmunrah is the one somewhat funny character in the film, but his self-infatuated posing and wacky accent opposite Stiller smacks distinctly of King Julian in “Madagascar.” Stiller seems a bit bored and annoyed through it all, which I can understand.
Besides the disappointing characters, the plot is a mess. It seems like the writers all sat down and thought up all the fun things they could come up with if the Smithsonian actually came to life. Then they scooped up the pile and threw it at the wall, splat. It’s a big mess. There are clever ideas, such as stepping into the scenes of iconic American paintings. There are plot threads with potential, like Larry and his son’s relationship. But the lack of editing of ideas and plot threads make for a cluttered, frenetic, and flat movie.
Although it will prompt some laughs and will be a two-hour escape for the kids, this movie is poorly thought out, poorly executed, and ultimately tiresome.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• If you were Larry, would you have left your lucrative business career to do a job you love, even if others would consider it the bottom of the barrel?
• Custer was hesitant to even try to fight because of his past failure. Do your past “failures” ever stop you from doing something you know you should?
• Amelia Earhart’s philosophy was “why do something if it’s not fun?” Do you agree with her attitude?
Note: All movie-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective movie studios.