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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Back to the Museum
by Betty Jo Tucker

Guess who helps save the day in Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian? None other than one of my idols from the past, Amelia Earhart! Played by Amy Adams, the spunky aviatrix livens things up whenever she appears on screen. Unfortunately, the rest of this sequel fails to live up to the first Night at the Museum romp. Still, youngsters in the screening I attended seemed entertained by the little historical figures and life-size statues that come to life -- as they did so incredibly in the previous film.

When the movie opens, we see Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) in a new light. He’s now a successful businessman/inventor who barely has time for his son (Jake Cherry). But as soon as he receives word about his beloved museum exhibits being packed up for a move to the archives of the Smithsonian, the former night security guard does everything in his power to make sure this doesn’t happen. As promised in the title, a spirited battle at the Smithsonian ensues.

Larry’s old friends cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson), Roman general Octavius (Steve Coogan) and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) are among the characters assisting him with his plans. However, their screen time is rather limited here. Larry’s most intriguing new helpers include a guilt-ridden General George Armstrong Custer (Bill Hader) and the daring Amelia Earhart (Adams). Villains of the piece are tyrants Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) and Napoleon (Alan Chabat) plus a black-and-white photographed Al Capone (Jon Bernthal).

Sadly, although the actors try their best, only Adams’ perky Amelia Earhart succeeds in overcoming a rather lackluster script and silly dialogue. The energetic Adams (Enchanted) appears “in the zone” throughout the film. Her snappy delivery reminds me of Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn and Carole Lombard in those classic screwball comedies from days of yore. Stiller (Tropic Thunder) looks uncomfortable in this second Museum outing. Portraying a man torn between his current financial success and his more exciting adventures as a nighttime security guard, he doesn’t get much chance to show that important character arc, mostly because of the frenzied happenings around him.    

Battle at the Smithsonian boasts the same director (Shawn Levy), writers (Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon) and star (Stiller) as Night at the Museum. Although the film’s cinematography and special effects impressed me, I expected more than excellent production values from this second installment. But I haven’t given up on the Museum franchise yet. In fact, I look forward to its next sequel. Don’t worry, fantasy fans, there’s sure to be one.  

(Released by Twentieth Century-Fox and rated "PG" for mild action and brief language.)

For more information about this movie, please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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