Review: Night at Museum 2
Plot: Several years after the events of the first film, former Museum of Natural History security guard, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is now a successful entrepreneur. When the museum's exhibits are shipped to the Smithsonian, along with the tablet that gives them life, Daley must infiltrate it in order to save his friends, who have run afoul of a rejuvenated Ancient Egyptian high priest (Hank Azaria), who wants to use the tablet to take over the world.
Review: Wow, count this as one film that completely took me by surprise! The original NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM was an OK family flick, but nothing more. However, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN is one sequel that totally eclipses the original film, and is easily the most fun I've had at a movie since seeing STAR TREK.
No wonder it destroyed TERMINATOR: SALVATION at the box office this weekend...
What makes this film better than the original, is that there seems to be a whole lot more imagination at work here than there was in the original film, which was comparatively pretty ho-hum. By moving the action to the Smithsonian, the filmmakers were able to incorporate all kinds of living exhibits into the film, and most importantly, also managed to incorporate some menace into the film- which is where I found the first one came up short (beloved codgers Dick Van Dyke & Mickey Rooney are NOT credible villains).
Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah makes a perfect villain for this type of film. He's just threatening enough to add some much need excitement to the proceedings, and Azaria's channeling of Boris Karloff from THE MUMMY really reminded me of Christopher Guest in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, where his villain was based on Henry Daniell in THE SEA HAWK (a great old Errol Flynn vehicle that's out on DVD). Speaking of Guest, he's also in the film, as very amusing Ivan The Terrible (or Ivan the Awesome as he puts it), and he's got a couple of great scenes opposite French actor Alain Chabat, who makes a great Napoleon. Those two, along with Al Capone, are brought back by Kahmunrah to aid in his diabolical plan (although- in a highly amusing sequence, Oscar the Grouch, and Darth Vader are not so lucky).
Luckily, Daley's got some help of his own, including Owen Wilson & Steve Coogan as Jedediah the cowboy, and Octavius the Roman Praetor, who return from the first film, with expanded roles. Coogan in particular is very funny in this- particularly his misadventures on the White House Lawn.
However, the MVP of this film, has to be Amy Adams, who turns up as Amelia Earhart. I must say, I am quite smitten with Adams, and my crush on her seems to grow with each film she appears in. She's absolutely wonderful as Earhart, hitting all the right notes throughout. I especially loved her giddiness in the "Hall of Aviation"- which features a number of great cameos, (including Clint Howard, who recreates his Mission: Control role from APOLLO 13). Towards the end, Adams even has a few fairly moving scenes opposite Stiller, and I really hope if they make a third MUSEUM film, she'll be back. In the meantime, I'll be counting the days until her next film (JULIA & JULIA- due in August).
As for Stiller, I've always been a fan of his, and he's surprisingly restrained here- at least compared to his manic (and hilarious) turn in last year's TROPIC THUNDER. I really liked him here, and I doubt these films would work as well as they do without him on board. Still, he's definitely overshadowed here by Adams, Coogan & Azaria, leaving him to pretty much play the straight man- which he does surprisingly well. You also have to give the guy credit, in that there are a lot of actors out there that wouldn't so willingly share the spotlight with so many talented people (heck,I haven't even mentioned Robin Williams, Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, Thomas Lennon, Eugene Levy, Jay Barushel, Jonah Hill or Ricky Gervais yet).
Probably the only thing I didn't like about the film were the insufferable Jonas Brothers, who turn up as a trio of singing/ beat-boxing, cherubs. I cringed every time they showed up, which thankfully is not often. Oh well, I guess you have to pull in the tween crowd somehow. I also thought some of the obviously improvised exchanges between Stiller & Azaria (not to mention Stiller & Jonah Hill) went on a little too long.
Overall though, I had an absolutely blast with this, and it was even worth the premium I paid to see it on IMAX. It's definitely something worth checking out, and for me- one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer thus far.