Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Action/Adventure
In this sequel, former security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has adventures with old "living exhibits" and some new ones when he must rescue his buddies from the Smithsonian.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Christopher Guest
Director: Shawn Levy
Release: Opened May 22, 2009
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Editorial Review

Washingtonians, rejoice! The Smithsonian Institution gives a fantastic performance in Ben Stiller's new family comedy, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." Just as the original "Night at the Museum" reportedly increased attendance at New York's American Museum of Natural History, this sequel should make the National Air and Space Museum an even more impenetrable mess of pint-size hordes. But parents should be happy about that. After all, a couple of visits to the museums might keep them away from pedestrian movies like this one.

The museum sparkles, but the movie is awfully dull.

Last seen wowing his son by handling the late-night shenanigans at the Museum of Natural History, onetime night guard Larry Daley (Stiller) is now a CEO. On one of his visits back to the museum, he learns that most of his moonlight pals -- Dexter the capuchin and belligerent tiny cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) among them -- are being shipped to Washington. The movie's action is mostly in the Smithsonian Castle and the Air and Space Museum. Things are fudged a bit: The movie's Castle and the vaults underneath are jammed with a giant octopus, Rodin's "Thinker" and "American Gothic."

But the real problem is that Stiller underplays a little too much. It's not nearly as much fun to watch him coolly face down a dozen spear-toting warriors as it was to watch him screaming and running from a T. rex. "Smithsonian" is filled with cameos from beloved comedy figures given almost nothing to do: Christopher Guest growls a bit as Ivan the Terrible. Ricky Gervais classes things up for five minutes, then disappears. Mindy Kaling and Ed Helms hardly appear at all.

Coming off much better is Amy Adams, who plays irrepressible Amelia Earhart. If the producers are smart, they'll sign Adams up for a spin-off posthaste.

-- Dan Kois (May 22, 2009)

Contains mild action and brief language.