It comes as no surprise that <>Night at the Museum has warranted a sequel, and as sequels are known to do, it has gone bigger and louder, even moving the action to a much larger museum. But mostly, it goes heavier on the gags, throwing as many jokes as the runtime would allow. As a result, Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is largely plotless and pretty uneven, though people just looking for an easy laugh will certainly find it in here.
Former night watchman Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is now a successful businessman peddling his inventions on informercials. His work has kept him from visiting the museum and the exhibits that come to life at night thanks to a magical Egyptian artifact. He goes there one night to find the museum under renovation, and many of the exhibits packs in crates to be shipped to federal storage in Washington D.C. He resolves to do something about getting them back, but before he even gets to form a plan, he gets a call from his old pal Jebediah, who tells him that they accidentally brought along the amulet, and now all the exhibits that the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, are coming to life, including a ruthless Egyptian prince who seeks to conquer the world. Larry heads over to D.C. to try and save his friends, and the world.
It might sound like there’s a lot going on in the plot, but there really isn’t. The plot barely moves the characters from place to place in order to give them the pretense for all their gags. If you even just try to trace the timeline of events in the movie, you’re going to be met with a series of discordant scenes where the characters appears to have not progressed in any way even though we know that time has passed. See, the plot is really just a framework for the film’s comedic setpieces, of which there are many. The main philosophy behind this film’s comedy is to throw as many gags at the audience as possible, hoping to overwhelm them with enough hilarity to overshadow the loose plotting. The movie’s hit-miss ratio isn’t too good, but it does manage to hit a couple of really big laughs. Overall, though, the movie doesn’t really try too hard with its humor. Despite the rich history behind each of the film’s characters, the film is mostly content with slapstick for the kids and cameos for the adults. It’s aiming pretty low, especially when you consider the talent that’s involved in the picture.
There really isn’t much to say about the filmmaking. It’s serviceable, doing just enough to capture some decent special effects and the performances of the ridiculously talented cast. Stiller is basically playing himself at this stage, but that’s not such a bad thing. Stiller is genuinely funny, his comedic timing next to none. And he’s backed up by some of the greatest names in comedy: Steve Coogan, Christopher Guest, Hank Azaria, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Ricky Gervais…and those are just the guys that we actually get to see. Amy Adams is still adorable, though she has some of the more annoying lines of the film.
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is a decent enough distraction, though it does feel like it’s underachieving, considering the talent involved. It’s just disappointing to see a film with such rich potential falling back on two monkeys slapping Ben Stiller repeatedly. Sure, that can be funny, but it’s hardly the kind of thing that ultimately makes a movie memorable. In the long run, kids don’t need to be talked down to, and it would be better for everyone if their entertaining chose to be smarter.