From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - C+

Rated PG for mild action and brief language, 105 minutes

Oh, what a busy "Night": pleasant but overdone

I enjoyed the mildly entertaining 2006 comedy "Night at the Museum" - a fun, well-handled premise with the always engaging goofball Ben Stiller. The big-budgeted overdone sequel, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (even the title is longwinded) is a different story. It has a few wistful, pleasant moments moments but is larely unnecessary, tiresomely busy and excessive. There's way, way too much going on, so much in fact that you'll be worn out by the end. Though Stiller is suitably goofy, Amy Adams outcharms him and Hank Azaria's nuttiness all but steals the movie.

Stiller is Larry Daley, the night security guard at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Everything in the museum, including the T-Rex, Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt (still played by Robin Williams) and all the miniatures still come to life. Except two years later the slacker Larry has become an inventor, started his own business and become quite wealthy, with less time for his new friends. He returns periodically to visit, and finds out from Teddy that the Museum is completely renovating and moving most of the museum to the archives underground at the Smithsonian, where they'll never be seen again.

Larry treks to D.C. only to find that the miniature Jedidiah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan) are being held captive by evil Egyptian prince named Kahmunrah (Azaria), who has a plan to take over the museum, maybe the world, once he gets the combination to unlock a mysterious vault. Larry, along with Amelia Earhart (Adams), General Custer (Bill Hader) and a couple of rare monkies, Larry must stop Kahmunrah in his tracks, resulting in a memorable battle at the famous museum that's never been before.

"Night at the Museum 2" is a display of what happens when Hollywood gets its hands on a successful formula: make it bigger, better and work it to death until it becomes pointlessly mediocre and unnecessary, which this film becomes quickly. "Night at the Museum" is overstuffed with an all-star gallery of Hollywood faces playing famous characters, most of whom get lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way. It's quite unfortunate, since the talented Stiller, director Shawn Levy, and writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (extremely funny writers and actors on "Reno 911!" but not so much here), all who worked on the first film, fail to capture the energy, spirit and fresh humor of that movie.

That's not to say that "Night at the Museum 2" isn't without it's funny moments - especially with Stiller around. Whether in a slap fight with the monkeys or torturing fellow security guard Jonah Hill in a wickedly funny cameo, you can always count on him for a couple of laughs. But Adams' Earhart is a charming comedic sweetheart (she also looks good in a bob hairstyle), and Azaria, playing the lispy Egyptian prince and voicing several other characters, walks off with the movie in all his nutty glory (his Thinking Man is as funny as it is in the trailers for the movie).

"Saturday Night Live" star Bill Hader also has a couple of funny moments as General Custer, though Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais, Williams, Wilson and Coogan all get lost in the shuffle, clearly casualties of the excessively busy script. Especially tiring is the climax, which literally swamps the screen with nearly every character in the film.

"Night at the Museum 2" isn't a terrible film, just a disappointment given the success of the first film. Stiller is fun, but the real treat is the loony Azaria and the cute Adams, who'll charm your socks off. Too bad the same can't be said for this pointless movie, and prepare yourself to take a nap afterwards, you'll need it.