By Adam Weeks
I wasnâ€™t a big fan of â€œA Night At The Museumâ€ â€“ well, itâ€™s not really a film that was designed for me personally to be a big fan of in the first place (it is after all a Kidâ€™s film). I did really like the cast that was assembled for it, having guys like Dick Van Dyke & Mickey Rooney going up against Ben Stiller was a great touch of old school class, but ultimately the movie wasâ€¦â€¦ well, it was underwhelming to me, despite the great ensemble cast.
So with that in mind, Iâ€™m happy to report that â€œA Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianâ€ (or â€œA Night At The Museum 2â€ as itâ€™s known here in Oz) is a significant improvement over the original in my book in almost every area â€“ better characters, better special effects, better story â€“ all around a better finished product.
â€œNight 2â€, kicks off a few years after the events of the first film, where Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has become somewhat of a success story in â€œgimmickyâ€ products like a Glow-In-The-Dark Torch, Giant Dog Bones etc. But despite his success, he still misses the days of being a Night Guard at the Museum of Natural History. Upon visiting the museum one night, Larry discovers via Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais) & Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) that due to advances in technology, the entire Museum is to be transported to the federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. (all the exhibits are to become holograms).
However, before being shipped out, Dexter the Monkey steals the magical tablet of Ahkmenrah which brings the exhibits to life every night â€“ and as a result, the stored Exhibits at the Smithsonian also wake up â€“ including Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), the older, slightly more vengeful brother of Ahkmenrah, who plans on using the tablet for its other purpose â€“ which is to bring forth the Armies of the Underworld, and take over the world, along with the help of his newly recruited henchmen, Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat) & Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). Standing in the way of the new evildoers with Larry & the cast of originals are new faces including Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), The Thinker & Abraham Lincoln (voiced by Azaria), General Custer (Bill Hader), the Tuskegee Airman (Keith Powell & Craig Robinson) along with some harmonizing Cherubs voiced by the Jonas Brothers (sigh).
Itâ€™s very easy for me to pinpoint the main difference in quality of the first film and this one â€“ firstly, the story is paced much better – itâ€™s tight, flows well and is very funny (not that the original wasnâ€™t funny, but the gags in this as a result of some cameo appearances are gut-busters). Secondly, Hank Azaria is extraordinarily great in this film â€“ the delivery of both Kahmunrah and The Thinker in particular are laugh out loud funny â€“ thereâ€™s a reason this guy is so loved by fans of â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ â€“ heâ€™s just a brilliant character actor, one of my favourite performances of Azaria prior to this outing was in â€œThe Birdcageâ€, and this is easily on par with that. Last, but by no means least, the cameos that are spread throughout are really cool â€“ Jonah Hill shows up early in a nice scene with Stiller as a Guard at the Smithsonian named Brandon (â€œItâ€™s pronounced Brundonâ€), but you also get Jay Baruchel, Clint Howard, George Foreman, Mindy Kaling and Craig Robinson from NBCâ€™s â€œThe Officeâ€ along with Oscar the Grouch & Darth Vader (!) â€“ but in terms of new cast members, the always great Amy Adams & Bill Hader both inject a lot of energy into their characters, and itâ€™s obvious they both had a lot of fun with it.
Now â€“ one small criticism I would offer up is that with any large ensemble film like this, some characters can definitely be underused, and â€œNight 2â€ falls in that trap as well â€“ Owen Wilson is still given a lot to do, but out of the original â€œexhibitsâ€, heâ€™s really the most used â€“ Robin Williams has around 10 minutes of screen time all up, and he probably runs second to Wilson â€“ so if youâ€™re hoping for more focus on Attila, Sacajawea, Octavius etc. You may be a bit disappointed in their rather brief amounts of screen time. On the flip side, the new characters definitely donâ€™t disappoint, so you may find yourself not minding as much â€“ I just wished there was a bit more Steve Coogan in there, but thatâ€™s just an extension of my â€œAlan Partridgeâ€ worship.
So to wrap up â€“ yes, I definitely recommend seeing â€œNight 2â€, I took my 7 year old Niece along to it, and she loved it as well, so we both think you should go and see it â€“ youâ€™ll have a good time.
Excellent Family Entertainment. 4 stars