Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Jon Bernthal directed by Shawn Levy Movie Review

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Amy Adams and Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

Nightmare at the Museum

After the first "Night at the Museum" which both finished nicely and was very entertaining I didn't really see a need for a sequel. But one was made and what can only be seen as a case of blatant commercialism we got "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian" a movie which is certainly bigger but sadly is not better. In fact "Night at the Museum 2" feels rather disappointing lacking the magic of the first movie as well as a really decent storyline, making it feel like a case of throw everything at it and hope some of it sticks.

Two years after he had saved the Museum of Natural History from a motley crew of old security guards Larry Daley (Ben Stiller - Tropic Thunder) has moved on and is now the successful CEO of his own gadgets company. But when he takes a trip back to the museum he is upset to find it is being closed down for refurbishment and all his little friends are being put into permanent storage in the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. But the following night he gets a surprise call from a panicking Jedediah (Owen Wilson - Marley & Me), who tells Larry that they are under threat because the evil Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria - Run Fatboy Run), Ahkmenrah's older brother, has come to life and is after them. With not time to spare or a plan Larry flies to Washington on a rescue mission.

Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian

The trouble is that in an attempt to make "Night at the Museum 2" not feel like a rehash of "Night at the Museum" they have introduced a few new characters, well actually quite a lot, swapped the location to the bigger Smithsonian and contrived a storyline where all those exhibits from the first movie are now in danger, but it's not that interesting. By swapping to the Smithsonian it gives the movie a much wider area to work with but all it feels like is scene after scene where we get introduced to someone else from the past and the actual storyline becomes irrelevant. Yes it is still quite imaginative and the fact that pictures now come to life makes for a couple of fun scenes but it just feels like a procession of ideas.

I know with "Night at the Museum 2" being a family movie you're not expecting anything deep and meaningful, and even the sub storyline about Larry missing the exhibits now he has become successful fails to come close to this, but there just seems to be something missing this time round. It really feels like that the writers walked around the Smithsonian and picked all the exhibits which they would like to bring to life and then tried to incorporate them into the movie with out a care as to whether they added anything to the story.

That is actually part of the trouble as so many of these exhibits & statues come to life that it becomes a confusing mess with many of them failing to make any impact and being back ground noise. For example we have General Custer who appears in various scenes but the character is never really explored as they were in the first movie. Plus the introduction of a giant Octopus really is very stupid and quite laughable for the wrong reasons. There is just no restraint or control with it ending up a cacophony of characters which get introduced because they are there but then never used.

Even the humour often feels misplaced this time round and a lot of it fails to work, especially that featuring the giant Octopus. A prime example of which is a scene where Larry has an argument with Brundon the Security Guard played by Jonah Hill, it's just not that funny, feels a little stilted and goes on far too long to the point of being boring. Even Ben Stiller this time round lacks his usual exuberance and is really only funny in a handful of scenes.

Performance wise well many of those familiar faces return from the first movie such as Steve Coogan as Octavius, Owen Wilson as Jedediah Smith and Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt, plus Ricky Gervais who basically book ends the movie as the curator of the Museum of Natural History. It's these familiar characters which makes the movie work, we know them and so watching their exploits for the most is fun, it's just a shame that their exploits are curtailed in favour of introducing a whole range of new characters. So what we get is Hank Azaria who camps it up as the amusing but slightly unoriginal Kahmunrah as well as Amy Adams who is very good as Amelia Earhart but feels a little like she is trying to hard and comes across more like Katharine Hepburn with her over the top accent and ballsy attitude. There are various other recognizable faces such as Christopher Guest, Jon Bernthal and Bill Hader but they never make any real impact.

Plus of course there is Ben Stiller who as I've already mentioned doesn't appear to be on top form. I'm not sure what it is, but in some scenes there appears to be a look of bemusement on his face as even he is wondering what the heck is going on.

What this all boils down to is that "Night at the Museum 2" feels like a case of commercialism, manufacturing a sequel to purely capitalize on the popularity of the first movie but failing to worry about the integrity of the movie itself. There is so much thrown at this sequel from characters through to comedy but not much of it sticks, especially the storyline which seems to only be there to try and connect all the various characters they bring to life. I am sure children will enjoy most of the humour and antics as they romp around the Smithsonian but for me it was disappointing, lacking the magic and originality of the first "Night at the Museum".