"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

12/02/2009 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"

"Directed by Shawn Levy, written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, 105 minutes, rated PG.

By our guest blogger, Matt Jussim

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" is a cute, kid-friendly, wacky comedy equipped with monkeys, pharaohs and enough historical characters to make your head spin.

The sequel to 2006’s successful “Night at the Museum” ($574 million worldwide) reunites director Shawn Levy and Ben Stiller, and picks up a few years after the first film left off. Larry Daley (Stiller) is now a successful businessman. He has a knack for infomercial-type inventions and is doing very well--financially anyway.

He returns to his museum to visit his old friends and museum director Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), who explains to him that the Museum of Natural History is going hi-tech and sending many of the exhibits off to the Smithsonian to be stored and only a few of the more popular exhibits will remain. These include Rex and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams). Larry and the exhibits hang out for one last night together although Teddy does not tell the other exhibits that the item that brings them life will not be making the journey with them.

Problems arise when Larry is called by cowboy Jebediah Smith (Owen Wilson) and it is explained that the troublesome monkey Dexter has stolen the Tablet of Ahkmenrah on their way to storage at the National Archives. The call sends Larry to action and he must get past security guard Brandon (Jonah Hill) by flashing his terrific flashlight combative skills.

At the Smithsonian, Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) has realized the power of the tablet and joined forces with Napoleon (Alain Chabat), Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) and Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) to hold Larry´s friends captive and unlock the secrets of the tablet to enable them to rule the world.

Co-written by Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”, “Night at the Museum”), the story gets a bit ridiculous at times and is far reaching, but yet I still found the film very entertaining.

With all of the major players returning for the production, it doesn’t feel like a quick attempt at making money from the first successful film. It feels like a franchise picture where everybody involved cares for the product and how it turns out.

One of the best parts of the film are the cameos--without some solid performances, the Smithsonian exhibits would be just that, exhibits. Instead, they are lively and hilarious. The cameo by Oscar the Grouch and Darth Vader was a very clever use of pop culture and I also enjoyed how Al Capone was in black in white coloring. Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader also was fantastic as the rambunctious General Custer.

I also liked the chemistry between Ben Stiller and Amy Adams. Both Adams and Stiller are quite good in the film and Adams actually would have been a good choice in the recent biopic about the ill-fated aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart.

There were a few things about the film that didn’t quite rub me the right way. Having the Jonas Brothers sing was just out of place and felt forced. I am not a Jonas Brothers hater--in fact, I have no opinion of them, except that they didn’t belong in the movie.

But my biggest criticism of the film is that I felt the filmmakers grossly underused Jonah Hill. He could have been the perfect sidekick throughout the film and I think they missed an opportunity here. He is by far one of the funniest and most talented comedians in Hollywood today and I think the movie would have been better if he had more screen time.

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" was a fun escape from the day-to-day realities of life. Sure the story was cheesy, but I was laughing throughout.

With plenty of new faces introduced, the film felt fresh and Azaria’s latest reuniting with Stiller after the underrated "Mystery Men" was great to see. Of course, it won’t ever be recognized for wonderful storytelling, but the film is fun and at times whimsical as the recognizable items from the Smithsonian’s collection come to life.

You could spend plenty of time picking on the film’s shortcomings, but if you look past those and enjoy the film, it is hard to not be entertained.

On DVD and Blu-ray, "The Battle of the Smithsonian" is filled with bonus features about the special effects, as well as features on the cast and crew who brought the characters to life. The featurettes “Monkey Business” follows the training of Crystal the Monkey, who plays Capuchin, and "Building the Museum" shows viewers all the hard work that went into recreating the real-life museum in which the movie takes place. There also are blooper reels, trailers, and extended scenes.

Grade: B+

View the trailer for "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" below. Thoughts?

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