Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt

Yesterday was the first really hot day of the year. KC emailed me at work: “Brain melting. Let’s go to the movies! They have industrial AC!” Since we’d already seen Up, we chose Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

As expected, Amy Adams playing Amelia Earhart was the best thing about it. I like Ben Stiller (as lead, guard Larry Daley), but at times here, he seemed too tired and reserved for all the special effects mayhem going on around him. But she always had gumption and moxie and frequently saved the day. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling things, but her role was fresh and kept me interested even when other bits didn’t.

Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart

The part at the beginning establishing Larry’s successful company was unnecessary and slow; I wanted to know instead what happened to the girlfriend from the previous movie, but I think they were hoping everyone would forget about that.

I liked the film, but not as much as the first one. There are impressive special effects, but I would have appreciated a little more comedy and fewer plot/chase/threatening scenes, because all that was predictable. The music was way overdone trying to make it feel epic. (If I notice the score, I know it’s too much.) It’s also overstuffed. They had to get in all the characters from the previous movie as well as all the new Smithsonian elements.

Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt

The returning character I was most glad of was Robin Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt, who grounds the movie with smart advice and a sense of gravitas. New this film is Hank Azaria, the lead villain as an Egyptian Pharaoh, Kahmunrah, who talks like Boris Karloff (vaguely English, upper class, with a lisp). I kept getting confused about what he knew — he enlisted Al Capone, who lived centuries after him, and he knew what “exfoliation” was, but he’d never heard of Darth Vader? I know, I’m overthinking. But speaking of Vader, that scene would have been so much better if they hadn’t revealed so much of it in the ads. This is a movie it’s better to know very little about going in.

Christopher Guest and Hank Azaria

Azaria also provides the voices of the Thinker and Abraham Lincoln, which I didn’t guess — he’s very good at distinctive voices. Also new in this film was Bill Hader as George Custer, a difficult role given that all anyone remembers about him now is that he was a loser with good hair. Christopher Guest plays Ivan the Terrible as a mostly generic old-time bad guy. And the Jonas Brothers cameo, making them the element that will most date the movie later.

Let’s see, what else did I like? I was very glad at the scenes of the living art pieces, though, even if few of them are really part of the Smithsonian. (American Gothic and Nighthawks are at the Art Institute of Chicago, for example.) Seeing a huge Jeff Koons balloon dog bouncing around was nifty.

Also be aware: the movie acts as a giant ad for visiting the Smithsonian — and it works. I want to plan a vacation there now, especially since they’re providing tie-in visitor guides.

Although I dislike what I call Xanadu endings, I still recommend you see this if you’re looking for some escapist summer fun.

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