(My thanks to Ed and KC for their help with this review; they provided company and insight watching the film.)
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian remains the best advertising possible for the museums that make up the Nation’s Attic. As a movie, though, it’s a bit overstuffed. That’s what some people expect from sequels, though: for them to be more than the original, bigger in every way possible. The result here is too many good ideas and neat concepts to make a coherent movie, although the special effects remain impressively fascinating. I’ve already written about some of my concerns when I saw it at the theater this summer, so here I’ll concentrate on talking about the DVD features.
With all that goes on in some of the scenes, it’s a great pleasure to have the ability to pause and rewind to catch the details, although a couple of the extended “comedy” pieces, like the security guard showdown with Jonah Hill, were grating the second time around. I had new appreciation for the work done by Steve Coogan (as the little Roman leader), Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt, although not nearly enough of him), Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart), and especially Hank Azaria as the evil Pharaoh. He makes his scenes, even when they’re purely expositional, involving through his commitment to the material and his accent.
All of the disc versions include two audio commentaries, one with the writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon and one with director Shawn Levy. The major featurette is the behind-the-scenes half-hour “Curators of Comedy”, which provides additional laughs through interviews with a bunch of the stars. There are also six deleted scenes:
- Brunden: The Director’s Cut (5:38)
- World Twister (1:13)
- How Many Bad Guys Can You Fit in an Elevator? (0:46)
- Moon Rover (1:32)
- Take ‘Em Down, Gangster Style (1:13)
- Alternate Ending (1:02)
I really hate the Brunden stuff, as previously mentioned, and for me it epitomizes everything that’s wrong with modern comedy: irritating schlubby guys in awkward situations, unfunny sequences of people acting like kids extended to absurd lengths, a lack of skilled editing, a misplaced trust in improv over clever writing — and worst of all, the same bit (“don’t touch this”) is done much better later in the film by Stiller and Azaria, demonstrating that when people know what they’re doing, it can be funny. This bit, in contrast, is just painful, especially at over five minutes.
The Twister game made us laugh, and the Moon Rover scene tackles an open question left out of the movie: Earhart’s navigation abilities. The elevator scene, though, was done better in The Blues Brothers (a connection unacknowledged in the alternate scenes director’s commentaries, which led us to wonder if Levy didn’t know his movie history or didn’t want to talk about the similarities). The alternate ending has some wonderful surprise cameos I won’t spoil.
There’s also an eight-minute gag reel of various people, mostly Stiller, cracking up as well as two additional 4-5 minute featurettes: “Phinding Pharaoh With Hank Azaria” has him trying out different voices and “Cherub Bootcamp” features the Jonas Brothers and the director trying to be funny. (For anyone over 14, it’s intolerable.)
For a limited time, for the holidays, there’s a package available with a “Monkey Mischief” bonus disc. It has three animal-centered “Show Me the Monkey” featurettes (also included on the Blu-ray) and two games. “Monkey Business” uses footage and interview clips from the first movie to demonstrate the training involved. “Primate Prima Donnas” moves into the second movie to show how the same monkey played two roles and had an understudy. “The Secret Life of a Monkey Movie Star: Life Off Camera” is a parody of a “day in the life” of a movie star. Each is 5-8 minutes, so not a lot of content here.
The Monkey Slap game is computer-only, while “Able and Dexter’s Flights of Fancy” is a simple quiz that runs slowly and is easy to win. The monkeys are extraordinarily cute and rather talented for animal stars, plus there’s more footage of them slapping people, but I’m not sure this is worth the extra $5 for the package. Although maybe families with kids will feel differently.
I found it kind of weird watching a movie that decries chasing technological upgrades for the sake of “progress” while trying to figure out the difference between the DVD and Blu-ray, but we’ve ridden that hobby horse enough lately.
The Blu-ray package includes a digital copy, the film on DVD, and these additional features on the Blu-ray disc:
- Six more deleted scenes:
- Out of Town Emergency (0:14)
- Meet Ivan, Napoleon, and Al Capone (Extended) (3:48)
- Ivan Interrogates Larry (5:28)
- Capone Gets Inspired (0:51)
- Custer’s Plan (Extended) (2:30)
- Larry’s Pep Talk to Custer (Extended) (2:23)
- Museum Scavenger Hunt Game
- Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words
- Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes of the Natural Museum of History
- Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest
- Museum Magic: Entering the World of the Photograph (about the 1945 Times Square image)
- Directing 102: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy
- Gangster Levy (the director’s cameo)
- Two FOX Movie Channel Presents Featurettes
I’d have liked to have learned more about the museum from the first movie, the NY Natural Museum of History, but I guess that just means I should visit it myself. I’m guessing the caveman piece is a gag, since the characters aren’t understandable, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out not seeing more about the director.
If you liked the movie, and you think you’ll rewatch it a few times, the single-disc should be sufficient. The extras are nice little bonuses, but none are must-haves. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, rent it first to determine if it’s something you want to own. (The studio provided a review copy.)