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night at the museum battle of the smithsonian

Night At The Museum
Battle of the Smithsonian

Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Steve Coogan

Ricardo Barberini
& Richard Tara

June 2, 2009


Well, you asked for it and you got it.  The first movie with mediocre acting by Ben Stiller grossed over half a billion in worldwide sales, so naturally a sequel was in the cards.

This fantasy is simple enough.  Since the Museum of Natural History in New York is closed for renovations, most of the exhibits are permanently moved to the National Archives of the giant Smithsonian in Washington DC for storage.  The Natural History Museum plans to replace most of those exhibits with state-of-the-art computer generated graphics.  Some exhibits like Teddy Roosevelt will physically remain behind.

Meanwhile, Larry who has become a very successful entrepreneur with his inventions finds out about the move at the eleventh-hour.  He tries to offer his help but it is too late and the movers’ trucks have rolled.  Later that day, he finds out that the mischievous capuchin monkey, who had given him so much grief during the last movie, has stolen the magic tablet of Ahkmenrah.  Since the monkey is part of the exhibits that were moved, this will mean that the magic tablet could bring all the 130 million plus exhibits of the Smithsonian to life after dark.  Larry, manages to get inside the Smithsonian by posing as a security guard and finds the tablet, only to be confronted by a resurrected evil and wannabe world ruler Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) and his cohorts- Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible and Al Capone- who want the tablet and the code to open the door to the secret chamber which would unleash creatures that will help them rule the world. 

During the ensuing story, Larry meets myriads of characters including Amelia Earhart, the Tuskegee fliers, the first monkey in space and Abraham Lincoln who help him battle the evil but comically silly Kahmunrah.  There is a love interest in the story as Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) falls in love with Larry who does not really reciprocate her love.


Ricardo Barberini: 

When I first saw the original Night at the Museum in 2006, I thought that the narrative was quite original but it could have been a superior movie with a better set of actors. I did not care that much for Ben Stiller’s slapstick style of comedy and I did not think he showed much talent then.  The real star of the movie was Robin Williams as the great American president Theodore Roosevelt.  

The new movie continues the story by expanding the set to around the 19 museums that make up the Smithsonian.  Given the size of the Smithsonian, the potential for a great sequel could have been incredible. The idea is great and whoever thought of it should get a prize.  I could imagine using all those toys and artifacts in more than one sequel.  However, this brilliant premise for a wonderful movie is squandered by screenwriters Robert Garant and Thomas Lennon.    A truly golden opportunity was lost here. 

As it is presented here, the story is simple and yet quite nice but could have been far better.  As usual, Robin Williams excels in his role as Teddy Roosevelt, a compassionate benevolent man and a real Republican.   However, the true star of the movie is Hank Azaria who plays three different characters: the Thinker, Abraham Lincoln and the egotistical Kahmunrah.  I find Hank’s portrayal of a Kahmunrah with his funny lisp truly camp and yet asinine without being overly over-the-top.   One could only wish that other actors in the movie were half as good.  The one notable exception is Amy Adams as an oversexed Amelia Earhart.  By all accounts, the Amelia Earhart was more tomboyish than horny. She may be turning in her watery grave seeing Amy’s portrayal.  Nevertheless, Amy with her clipped English accent and her smiling eyes will win the audiences for this portrayal. .   I did not care much for acting by others such as Owen Wilson as Jedediah Smith who has made a career out of being an ugly guy with a crooked nose and nothing else.  Al Capone and Napoleon were stupid and not even slightly funny.  This brings us to Ben Stiller.  Well, he has improved since the last movie and I will give him that. Kudos to the special effects team members.  I will give this movie two stars and will reluctantly give it thumbs up It could have been so much better.


Richard Tara:

I actually liked the first Night at the Museum.  As Ricardo said, it had a fresh plot and the acting was acceptable.  Actually, the special effects and the story line were the real stars of the first movie.  You could have put any other group of actors in that movie and they could have probably pulled it off. 

This movie has some funny scenes.  I really enjoyed the short snippet when Larry gets stuck between the two capuchin monkeys and gets slapped on both sides.  No SPCA here; he returns the slaps heartily.  This is probably the best movie that Hank Azaria has done.  He played the silly effeminate lisping would be pharaoh while coming across so wonderfully as the grand old man of the republic Abraham Lincoln.  He kept Lincoln’s dignity intact and I applaud him for that.  As far as the story goes, I agree that once they moved the venue to Smithsonian, they had a franchise to compete with the Star Trek and the like for the long run by making more sequels. Somehow, that was spoiled here by using too many props, somewhat mindlessly, at the same time.  The world class special effects saved this movie but editing was choppy and below par.  I will still give this movie three stars.  thumbs up

Contact Ricardo Barberini at ricardo@moviebuffs.com

Contact Richard Tara at richardtara@gmail.com

Contact Moviebuffs at eden@moviebuffs.co

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