Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Four score? You’re lucky to have gotten 2 out of 5.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/22/2009
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Mizuo Peck

Museums everywhere have probably been hiring a few extra bodies lately in anticipation of Ben Stiller’s return to said hallowed institutions with “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”. And appropriately enough, a title that long and boring needs a film to match and that’s what many over the age of 10 years-old will be thinking should they find themselves trapped in the theater.

I enjoyed the first film for what it was, a mildly amusing kid-friendly affair. This go around, the usual course of sequelitis has sunk in and the script, director and bevy of comedic actors couldn’t salvage this meandering ship.

Stiller generally plays one of two things: a loud, pompous ass or a brainless goof. With this franchise, he has carved out a new archetype – the bland do-gooder. Fantastic. Suffice to say, one shouldn’t expect anything out of his performance. It may be that it’s a calculated decision, to allow for the zany museum exhibits that come to life take center stage. If that’s the case, it works … but doesn’t help this film get to the end credits any faster.

Really, there are only two reasons that anyone needing more than monkeys slapping Stiller in the face should feel somewhat satisfied with their choice of film: Amy Adams and Hank Azaria. Adams is charming and vivacious with a side of swankiness. She provides the heart to this Frankenstein of a flick and helps to make any scene with Stiller more bearable.

Hank Azaria, on the other hand, is essentially the only true comedy in the film (aside from some good moments from Steve Coogan and Christopher Guest). Azaria plays not only the big bad villain (an Egyptian wannabe world ruler with a lispy British accent) but also voices some bobble head Einsteins and Rodan’s Thinker.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that over 90% of any actual laughter that escaped my mouth was a direct result of Azaria hamming it up to the fullest extent of cinematic law. There are other fine comic actors here but they are thrown in with so many other characters that none of them have much of a chance to develop and shine.

The film’s pacing isn’t glacial but makes the film’s 105 minute runtime seem longer than it is. While plenty of scenes are built like video game levels, the transition between them usually involves some slow, heartfelt dialogue-driven mush fest.

For those of you out there with pre-teens, this is a safe film that will pass the time. Pretty much everyone else should look elsewhere at the multiplex, however. Purely because of Adams and Azaria, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” gets a 2 out of 5. It’s not a terrible film but it won’t leave any good, lasting memories in your head either.