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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Underdeveloped Plot and Characters
There's an old saying in Hebrew that claims that if you try and catch as much as you can, you'll end up having nothing at all. After viewing Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, I can sadly say that the same can be said when regarding this lesser sequel to the 2006 smash hit.
Even though most film critics despised the original movie, the first Night at the Museum was actually one of my favorite films of that year. For me, the film worked on two levels. First, by waking the inner-child in all of us and making us feel the magic Ben Stiller's character Larry experiences once the exhibits in his museum come to life in all their glory in front of him. Second, by telling a very straight-out and heart warming coming of age story of a grown-up divorced man who has to take control of his life and get his act together (with the museum working more as a metaphor of sorts). I also related to the additional educational values the film had to offer, another theme I felt received a lesser emphasis in the sequel.
In the second installment of the Night of the Museum series, much of the initial magic is already lost from the get-go. We already know the artifacts come to life and how, and the general feeling of suspense is gone. To make things worse, the whole story feels convoluted and unreal. We're expected to believe that Larry has turned from a no-good night guard at the museum in the first film to this mega-successful businessman in the second installment during the course of only a few years (and after being a virtual nobody for the vast majority of his life). I mean come on, Hollywood - Where did the charming loser from the first film go so quickly? Stiller's Larry is hardly likable at the beginning, and once he learns that his lovable exhibits/friends are moving to the Smithsonian museum (after the Museum of Natural History closed for technological renovation) things start happening so fast, that his motives for leaving his comfortable job to help rescue his friends are left undeveloped and unconvincing.
The main course of this sequel is of course the special effects created by the two museum's re-animated exhibits, with the evil Egyptian Kamunrah (The Simpson's Hank Azaria) acting as the main villain who operates the evil Smithsonian exhibits who strive for world domination yadda yadda yadda. Some effects are cute (Al Capone's gangsters brought back to life in black and white, the heroes entering an old painting, the Lincoln memorial rising from his chair, amongst others) and some are once again undeveloped and underused. At times, it seems so much is happening on the screen, that you don't really know where to look or who to concentrate on. Many returning characters from the first film are outrageously underused (including Robin Williams' Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson's Jedediah) and many comedians who are brought specifically for the film contribute blink-and-you-miss-it performances, including Ricky Gervais and Jonah Hill). The only true contribution for the film is the lovely Amy Adams (Enchanted), who portrays a fluffy re-animated Amelia Earhart who seems more lost than ever.
To sum things up, I'd say that Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian may have been cute at times, but it was mostly useless, as it really didn't add any significant notion to the elements presented in its predecessor. While that film felt like an instant classic to me, this one felt more like a quick money-grab with a lot of missed potential.
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