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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Review by Michael Edwards

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THIS follow up to the 2006 box-office success Night at the Museum is exactly the kind of simple, formulaic sequel you might expect: and that’s one of the few mercies on offer here.

It’s a mildly amusing CGI comedy that will please kids and depression-addled adults looking for a bland buffet of familiar gags. But in reality, the film has little more going for it.

The set-up is that the exhibits from the Museum of Natural History are gradually being replaced by technologically advanced, interactive exhibits (a bit like real films being replaced by… well, you get the idea) and are being packed up for the journey while former guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is busy building his business: marketing inventions like the glow-in-the-dark torch.

However, he’s soon brought to his senses by an impassioned phone call from toy soldier Owen Wilson and heads to Washington D.C. to battle the evil mummy Kahmunra who wants the power of the magic tablet in order to access his armies of the underworld and take over the world.

He recruits various historical villains to his cause, leading to plenty of stereotypes from the past which range from the painfully predictable short jokes about Napoleon to the slightly more welcome japes based on the reputation of ‘Honest Abe (Lincoln)’.

Larry is likewise forced to recruit some allies from the past, but seems to fare significantly worse both in terms of quality of character and of comedy. Famous aviator Emilia Earhart (Amy Adams) is perhaps one of the most irritating characters of the year, sporting an uninspired 1930s colonial-slang dialogue and an entirely unnecessary romantic subplot with Mr. Daley, while General Custer goes through the motions of a depressingly repetitive routine of being ‘the failure’ who just needs to wait for his time.

For all of it flaws, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian has its merits. The animation of sculptures and paintings provides some much-needed fresh material to the table, and scenes where Stiller scampers in and out of famous scenes from American galleries provide some excellent new jokes amidst an otherwise familiar fare.

Likewise, depictions of The Thinker as a stupid narcissist and Renaissance cupids as The Jonas Brothers offer a good chuckle-break from all of the wincing at the painful romance between Stiller and Adams.

As far as performances go, Ben Stiller is Ben Stiller, Amy Adams wears some very tight trousers, and Hank Azaria illustrates a great range of comedy acting in voicing several different (if equally mediocre) comic creations.

Steve Coogan’s miniature centurian is often a welcome interlude, but on the whole every member of the cast is going through the motions to achieve the basic standard required of the film.

Overall, it’s difficult to offer a conclusion different to many other Ben Stiller films. This is a passable piece of family fun that offers a brainless 90-minutes of by-the-numbers laughs, but little more.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 9, 2009