Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

directed by Shawn Levy

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian poster  
In Night At The Museum Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) grudgingly took a job as a night guard, only to discover that it wasn't as dull as he had supposed. A few years later he has left it behind to open his own company, selling various gadgets that he's invented. As the CEO of Daley Devices he has all the money and prestige he could hope for, but he's overworked and unhappy.

When Larry goes back to check on his old pals at the Museum of Natural History he finds them being boxed up, ready to be put in storage. Progress has come to the museum. They are making way for new interactive exhibits. However, not long after they're sent away Larry gets a call for help. The wax figures and other creatures at the Smithsonian have come to life, and they're waging war on the new arrivals. No longer a security guard, Larry must sneak into the Smithsonian and find his friends on the lower levels.

The chief antagonist is Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), a camp Egyptian with a lisp and a craving for power. He plans to use an ancient tablet to open the door to the underworld so that he can summon legions of undead warriors and take over the world. He recruits Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) and Napoleon (Alain Chabat) to help him with his dastardly schemes.

The Smithsonian is full of an even wider variety of characters than the Museum of Natural History. Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), General Custer (Bill Hader), and Abraham Lincoln (Hank Azaria) rub shoulders with cupids, a space capuchin, classical statues and a giant octopus. The pictures come to life rather like they do in the Harry Potter films, only the characters are able to walk in and out of them as well. There's also a scene which Darth Vader shares with Oscar the Grouch. The film contains a riotous array of colourful characters (or black and white characters, in the case of Al Capone's gang). They get themselves into loads of very silly situations, and there's an abundance of the kind of slapstick humour that children will find very appealing. Some of the humour may fall a little flat for older viewers, however. The character of Napoleon, for instance, seems to have been lifted from the Time Bandits school of history. Only Ian Holm's maudlin and height-obsessed Emperor Napoleon was funnier.

By law all American movies must include a love interest, no matter how inappropriate this is or how briefly the characters have known each other. Amelia Earhart fills this role in between some daring airborne stunts and delivering a number of utterly baffling lines. She's meant to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, so she shouldn't be incomprehensible to modern English speakers, but she talks more or less her her own language.

Like the first movie, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is an exaggerated frenzy of slapstick, chases, and historical high jinks. The cast features a wealth of comic talent, although some of these actors are wasted in bit parts whilst monkeys and CGI dinosaurs steal the show. It's not a profound experience, nor will it teach children much history, and it all ends on a note of melodramatic corniness. But as an absurd piece of madcap yet shallow entertainment, it's acceptable.

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Time Bandits cover    

Time Bandits by Terry Gilliam
A boy is entangled in the adventures of a group of robbers who have stolen a map that allows them to travel through time.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson