Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

Starring: Twentieth Century Fox. Out May 21, 2009. Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Bill Hader, Jon Bernthal, and others. Directed by Shawn Levy.
108 min
Rating: Rated PG (Mild violence, and some scary scenes)

This film is a sequel to “Night at the Museum” which first appeared in 2006. That was a very successful movie for Shawn Levy who directed this one as well. Museum 1 grossed $30.8 million on its opening weekend across some 3, 685 cinemas in the US, and this film will no doubt do the same.

The museum exhibits located in the Museum of Natural History in New York are being moved to archival storage in Washington, and the main museum in Washington for the film is The Smithsonian Institute, which houses something like 136 million items in its various collections. This is the first major Hollywood movie to be filmed at the Smithsonian, though a lot of the movie was actually filmed in Vancouver, Canada. There are scenes as well from the National Air and Space Museum, and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and some of the original cast have returned, including Ben Stiller (who starred in the original film), Robin Williams, and Owen Wilson. In this film, there are a whole host of extras, who fill the screen with almost every conceivable comic character. At the heart of the movie is the romantic interest between Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), the ex- security guard from Museum 1, and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), the famous aviator, who flew her plane solo non-stop across the Atlantic.

Larry is now CEO of a smart, successful gadget company, but he has lost all enjoyment in life. He finds that joy again and he does so by infiltrating The Smithsonian to rescue his beloved exhibits from the threat of storage. As before, the museum exhibits come vividly to life, including some of the same exhibits that were in the earlier movie. Kah Mun Rah (Hank Azaria), is an evil Pharaoh, who crosses gender lines wittily. Some old exhibits such as Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams),  and some lively new ones such as General Custer (Bill Hader) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) come to life as well. With all the mayhem that the exhibits create, Larry and Amelia try to get everything back in order again, and their romance blooms.  Ben Stiller is a little serious as the unhappy ex-security guard, who finds he needs his exhibits, and who eventually returns them to “live” in their original New York home. Amy Adams lights up the screen every time she appears.

This sequel is inevitable, given the success of its predecessor, and it significantly steps up the pace and the action. The previous movie had wonderful  special effects, witty banter between the characters, and some fine moral messages about equity and fairness of treatment. This movie continues the banter and the messages in the same way, and they are delivered with zest. Larry finds commitment to his community of exhibits, but the film’s array of comedy characters is so wide there are only some genuinely hilarious comic happenings. There are some magical moments, nevertheless, which include a group of singing cupids and a rampaging squirrel.  There are some scary scenes, but children will enjoy the activity and fantasy frenzy of the characters that literally fill the screen. From General Custer, Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, The Thinker, Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte, Attila the Hun, and a giant squid, there is hardly a dull moment in this movie, and adults should enjoy it all as well.  

In the movie, there are hints of a Museum 3 coming down the line, but it seems a pity to do it all one more time, and it is hard to know how that would turn out. The number of exhibits coming to life in this film must be at a maximum. For those near to a VMAX version of the movie, it could be well worth the effort to see the movie in that way.

Twentieth Century Fox  Out May 21, 2009

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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