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May 25, 2009
Review - " Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian "
- (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian - movie poster
Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart) & Ben Stiller - Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian
Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah - Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian
miniature owen Wilson and Steve Coogan - Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian
Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian
Directed byShawn Levy
Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams,
Steve Coogan, Bill Hader

In the genre of kid-friendly action movies ("Jumanji", "Zathura", "The Last
Mimzy"), 2006's "Night at the Museum" had something of a pedigree. A
high-brow setting, A-list special effects, and Ben Stiller to wrangle it all together.
The result, a no-questions-asked money-maker - in which a museum's
sculptures come magically to life after the sun sets - provided the requisite
thrills and chuckles for the family set. The sequel, "Night at the Museum: Battle
of the Smithsonian", follows suit, delivering everything you might want from this
history-tweaking franchise (the press notes call it "the Night at the Museum
saga", which sounds more like a threat). It's loud, goofy and keeps its tongue
firmly in its cheek thanks largely to Mr. Stiller, who has become an affable
ringleader in this digitally enhanced circus.

In the years since the first "Museum", Mr. Stiller's Larry Daley has left his job as
security guard at Manhattan's Museum of Natural History to become a
successful inventor (his latest infomercial proffers a glow-in-the-dark flashlight).
He visits his old haunt occasionally, but has otherwise left his waxwork friends
behind in the pursuit of wealth (sense a theme coming?). When "Museum 2"
opens, Larry discovers his favorite sculptures being stuffed into crates for
shipment to the federal archives (at the Smithsonian, of course) to make way
for new holographic exhibits (damn you, technology!). When the magic Egyptian tablet which brings them to life is shipped
off along with them, nightfall in our nation's capitol is beset by a plethora of reanimated characters. Most nefarious is
Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, channeling Boris Karloff with a lisp), a power-hungry Pharaoh bent on unleashing the Army of
the Underworld. Naturally, it's up to Larry to stop him.
Have there ever been screenwriters as lucky as Robert Ben Garant & Thomas
Lennon? Returning to the "Museum" franchise, the "Reno 911!" alums have
the entire Smithsonian archives at their fingertips; they have but to imagine it
and the significant talents of the visual effects team will make it so. The writers
appear to have a singular gift for randomness. As Larry runs through gallery
after gallery, pterodactyls fly over head, Calder sculptures dance playfully in
the background and a giant octopus comes in very (ahem) handy. We're even
able to find out what Rodin's The Thinker has been pondering all this time
(turns out, it's girls). The writers also extend the magic beyond sculptures to
wall art. Much fun is had with American Gothic and the iconic V.J. Day kiss in
Times Square.

The film features an impossibly large cast - all the characters from the first film
return, in addition to some new ones - and there's still time for winking parodies
of "Apollo 13" and "300". Accompanying Larry on his exploits is a spunky
Amelia Earhart (she uses words like "moxie") played with franchise-buoying
charm by Amy Adams (whose ass looks absolutely fantastic in those
skin-tight camel colored aviator slacks.) The ever funny Jonah Hill has a small
part as a Smithsonian security guard. The director made a huge mistake by
under-utilizing this brilliant comic actor. They introduce this major character,
he's in one scene and then you never see him again. He could easily have
been brought in almost anywhere else in the film, Perhaps, Stiller, as the star of
the movie didn't want the comedy competition. Also new to the cast is a
guards, not even an innocent
bystander), remember this is a
movie about wax figures coming
to life. And they all speak

Parts of "Museum" feel like a
straight history lesson
(returning director Shawn
Levy's camera makes sure to
pan over informative plaques
so no one feels left out). Then
there's the scene between
Earhart (I never knew she had
such a great ass!) and the
Tuskegee Airmen, and the sight
of the Lincoln Memorial coming
to life. If moments like these, of
unbridled idealism, don't bring a
smile to your face, well... you'd
have to be made of wax.
Oh, and did I mention Amy Adams Ass? That alone is worth the price of admission. Whoever designed the aviator pants that
fit her like a second skin should get a bonus, because that alone kept my eyes glued to her rather shapely derriere.  The
girl's got a rocking heinie, and the movie seems determined to showcase that fact repeatedly.
self-doubting General Custer (Bill Hader, relishing every line), several Einstein bobble-heads (Eugene Levy, Eugene Levy,
Eugene Levy, & Eugene Levy), and three flying Cherubs given voice by the Jonas Brothers. In case you're wondering
about the believability of all this (Washington DC, for example, appears completely empty - there are no police, no security