Pumped-up sequel still manages to turn a magical idea into an uninspired theme park.
Doane Gregory/Twentieth Century Fox/Reuters
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" is being touted as the first film ever shot in the Smithsonian complex. With any luck, it will also be the last. This is not the best use of our landmarks.
The film exists because of the surprisingly boffo status of its predecessor, "Night at the Museum," a mediocre comic romp though Manhattan's Museum of Natural History during which everything inanimate within its walls came to life after-hours – except the film itself, which turned a moderately magical idea into a uninspired theme park. But clearly something about this after-hours idea resonated with audiences. Who, after all, hasn't dreamed of being locked inside a museum when suddenly the mummies and mastodons come to life?
In the sequel, Ben Stiller, who played the night guard in the first film, is once again mixing it up with a cast of animate inanimates, played by, among others, Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), Christopher Guest (Ivan the Terrible), Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart), and, earning the most laughs, Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria). If this film is a success, what's next on the list? The Hollywood Wax Museum? The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas? The George W. Bush Presidential Library? Grade: C- (Rated PG for mild action and brief language.)