Elaine at the movies: “Night at the Museum 2

Elaine Blum

That “Battle of the Smithsonian” is a sequel should have clued me in that I did not need to spend $6 to see it in a theater. Sequels are tricky. For a second film, you expect some new tricks mixed with the old gags. If you make a sequel, you need to be rather creative in making it at least as good as the first without relying on the same formula.
The original “Night at the Museum” indulges the little kid inside all of us who wonders what it would be like to stay inside the museum after closing time. Placing the sequel in the Smithsonian sounds like a pretty natural trump card. Instead of one museum there are many, connected by underground storage archives. This is plenty of space for new exhibits that can come to life and battle each other.
Ben Stiller reprises his role as night guard Larry Daley. Other familiar faces include Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Robin Williams. The film also hosts newbies Hank Azaria, Bill Hader, the Jonas brothers and Amy Adams.
Though impressive that studio execs can convince this many celebrities to join the sequel, the cast can only do so much with a script lacking any ingenuity. This movie is heavy on pretty faces, but it relies on a far-too-fluffy script.
The most annoying thing about the movie is the forced and unnecessary love thread between Stiller and Adams, who plays Amelia Earhart. Studio execs must have really wanted Adams, so they found a famous person she looked like and wrote her a part. Sure, every sequel needs some new tension, but a love interest is the best they could come up with?
This plot thread merely distracts audiences so that they do not notice that the plot otherwise lacks substance. The film relies on special effects, pretty faces and the boy-meets-girl fluff that dominates films that lack the creativity to center upon anything else. That they felt they needed a love interest in this sequel is just another clue that they lacked the creativity to come up with something more ingenious.
Almost as annoying as Adams’ performance is the apparent lack of fact checking for the film’s museum exhibits. I am not a cultural snob, yet I noticed a couple of misplaced artworks, namely Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”
Both of these pieces currently reside in the Art Institute of Chicago. They must have transmigrated from Chicago to Washington for the film. Obviously both are included merely because they are widely recognized and make for an easy joke. And this is what the movie is all about: making easy, obvious jokes and relying on recognizable faces to fill in the gaps.
“Battle of the Smithsonian” makes a fun romp for the kiddies. If you are babysitting this summer, consider taking the kids to this flick. But however fun it is for the young ones, its impressiveness does not translate to older crowds. And yes, almost all of this film’s funny lines are in the previews. Pixar’s “Up” comes out today – why not go see that instead? I will see you there.