Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) — All the fun stuff happens after light’s out

“You’re crazier’n a road lizard!”

Heather’s rating: No, really… just how crazy is a road lizard?

Heather’s review: I got a puzzled glance from the cashier when this grown woman bought just one admission ticket for a film called Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. I was originally supposed to see this film with my young nephew and niece, but was dumped on the day of in favor of playing with firecrackers with their friends. I’d rather not think about what that says for my appeal as a person.

Even so I’m happy to say that I don’t regret my choice of movie, and I actually had a really good time watching this sequel by myself. There’s something to be said for going to the theater alone, during off hours, staring up at a big screen that seems to be playing just for me. I can have all the elbow room I want and can even prop my feet up on the seat in front of me (yeah, I’m a loose cannon).

Back in 2006, the first movie told the story of Larry Daley (Stiller), a reluctant new night guard for the Museum of Natural History. Larry is shocked to discover that the exhibits are brought to life every night by a magical Egyptian tablet. Apparently the ancient Egyptians created gaudy baubles to animate store mannequins and wax statues when they got bored inventing trivial crap like paper and surgery.

The second movie extends the tale two years into the future, and we see that Larry is now a successful businessman. He takes a trip to the museum near closing time and finds museum director Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais, reprising his role!) standing amongst a lobby full of shipping crates containing much of the museum’s exhibits. McPhee informs Larry that the museum is changing over to interactive holographic exhibits, with the exception of the most popular pieces. Everything else is being shipped to the archives at the Smithsonian Institute. Larry stays behind to say goodbye to his friends and apologize for not spending much time with them over the years. Near dawn Teddy Roosevelt admits that the tablet isn’t going to the Smithsonian and those being shipped will never awaken again.

Larry is surprised soon afterward when he gets a distressed phone call from cowboy miniature Jedediah (Wilson), asking him to come help. Dexter, that rascally stuffed capuchin from the first film, stole the tablet and brought it with them to the Smithsonian. Now they are being attacked by Kahmunrah, a ne’er-do-well pharaoh with plans to use the tablet to awaken his Army of the Undead.

*whew*. Longest. Plot rehash. Ever. With that out of the way, I just want to say how completely surprised I was with this movie. There was a terrific cast, most returning from the first movie, with some awesome new additions. Hank Azaria was brilliant as Kahmunrah. I loved his nod to Boris Karloff with that accent and slight lisp. Azaria fleshed out a perfectly balanced evil/funny villain in a genre that tends to take said character archetype over the top. Another welcome addition was Christopher Guest who, in my opinion, had far too small of a role as Ivan The Terrible.

I recommend this as a terrific film for the family (or lonely twentysomething). The special effects were just fantastic, and there were some genuinely hilarious moments that had me laughing out loud ‘til I attracted the attention of the usher (don’t think I didn’t see you there, sneaking in a movie on company time. Yeah, I kept my feet up on that seat. If I’m going down, you’re going down with me).

This movie, like its predecessor, had its faults. Most glaring was Bill Hader’s General Custer. Oh my gosh how I loathed that annoying, screeching thing. The movie wouldn’t have suffered one iota if he had been left out completely. I also wasn’t too keen on the character of Amelia Earhart. She was just unimpressive to me. In every other instance this movie succeeded where the previous one failed (like trying too hard to be funny, and the stupid monkey Dexter. Why is there always a monkey?), and really found its footing in what I’m happy to say is a sequel that I liked as good, if not better, than the original.

Which really sucks for me, because it’s not going to be so easy to explain why a childless adult owns both movies on DVD.

Didja notice?

  • The Wright Brothers munching on those awful freeze-dried “astronaut treats” sold in museum gift stores?
  • Would that kind of aircraft really make it from Washington, D.C. to New York in less than an hour?
  • The slow-mo Miniatures vs. Shoes scene was very funny.

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