Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Jon Bernthal, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: http://www.nightatthemuseummovie.com/
Opening Day: 21 May 2009
In addition to Ben Stiller, the cast will be rounded out by many from the original film as well as several new characters from history. The centerpiece of the film will be bringing to life the Smithsonian Institution, which houses the world’s largest museum complex with more than 136 million items in its collections, ranging from the plane Amelia Earhart flew on her nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic and Al Capone’s rap sheet and mug shot to Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and Archie Bunker’s lounge chair. No major film has ever shot inside the Smithsonian in Washington…until NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2: ESCAPE FROM THE SMITHSONIAN.
If you thought the first Night at the Museum was just a gimmick, you’re quite likely to think the same way for this sequel that pretty much sticks to formula. The excuse for another history come alive adventure? Ex-security guard Larry Daley’s posse of friends, including cowboy Jedidiah Smith, Roman Octavius and yes, even the slapping monkeys, have accidentally been shipped away to the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
And so once again it’s time for Larry Daley to swing into action, saving the good characters from the bad ones and bringing his friends back to the Museum of Natural History in New York. This round, they are up against evil Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). But look the other way if you expect some kind of history lesson; everything here is done in the name of plain simple family fun.
Which pretty much explains the plethora of characters thrown into the mix- indeed, it seems as long as something can be milked for comic relief, it will in one way or another be included into the movie. Bobbing-head Albert Einsteins, singing Cupids, Abraham Lincoln, the Thinker, Darth Vader to even a giant monster squid; there’s no question the filmmakers were enamoured to be the first to be given permission to film inside the world’s largest museum complex.
But that’s also the reason why Night at the Museum 2 feels less like a movie than a string of physical gags between Larry Daley and the bevy of treasures inside the Smithsonian. Besides Kahmunrah and potential love-interest Amelia Earheart (Amy Adams), the first woman pilot that flew across the Atlantic, the rest of the characters unfortunately disappear into a blur, most of the time making too brief an appearance to create any kind of a lasting impression.
Even favourites from part one- Owen Wilson’s Jedidiah Smith and Steve Coogan’s Roman Octavius- have been reduced to mere sideshows, their spirited buddy relationship hardly given due justice here. For most of its duration, the movie instead unfolds at a breakneck pace, hurtling from one setpiece to another, each one set in a different museum in the Smithsonian and adding more supporting characters into the already crowded blend.
Still, thanks to some nifty visual effects, the movie does boast some nicely inspired moments- in particular, the monochromatic Al Capone and his henchmen characters alongside the rest of the colourful cast and Larry and Amelia’s hide-and-seek inside Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famed V-J Day picture in Times Square. Certainly benefiting from the experience of the first movie, director Shawn Levy displays an ease directing organized commotion on a large scale and it shows in the many wide shots he uses with each action scene to convey its scope and wonder.
Against the pompous overacting by most of the cast, Ben Stiller is surprisingly effective as a foil amidst the mayhem around him. His cool and collected security guard role works especially well for a very funny verbal joust with Jonah Hill (from Superbad)’s overenthusiastic Smithsonian guard. But the scene stealer is clearly Amy Adams whose bright, cherubic demeanour as Amelia is a buoyant presence to behold and a pleasant companion beside Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley.
Here’s what Night at the Museum 2 is about- a bigger museum, a cornucopia of characters, and an endless string of action and mayhem combined with the easily accessible family-friendly formula that made its predecessor a surprise hit with audiences three years back. If you’re looking for some good, clean fun, you won’t find yourself disappointed with this harmless summer diversion.
(Bigger budget, bigger cast, bigger venue, same family-friendly formula)
Review by Gabriel Chong