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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Better Than the Original

Published May 22, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian Poster Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonian
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian is way better than the original Night at the Museum. In fact, they fixed everything I found wrong with its predecessor, so I can only assume the filmmakers read my review and addressed my concerns point by point.

Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian


This adventure takes place all in one night of escalating events. That’s a much better pace, and it makes the title accurate (it’s not Nights at the Museum after all.) It seems like after the success of the first one, now they can do a whole movie. They don’t have to pad it out with daytime scenes. It’s real suspense because there’s a deadline by which time things can happen.

With all the Smithsonian branches at their disposal, the whole film flows with wonderful effects. There’s always something happening in the background, especially the crazy modern art. The idea of paintings coming to life is beautiful and the sequence explores that concept fully. The inclusion of pop culture artifacts is really fun too, and never overbearing on the history stuff.

It definitely emphasizes awesome over plot. I mean, the premise is the monkey stole the tablet when everything got shipped to D.C. That’s even more than they even had to say. They could have just said everything, including the tablet, got shipped. But whatever, we’re in D.C. and they can unleash 19 museums. Also, nobody noticed a breach in archive security and they just left every branch unattended for the whole night so that Larry and the exhibits could have their fun. Awesome. Also they somehow got from D.C. to New York in under an hour. That’s some 24 sh*t right there.

It emphasizes funny over accuracy too. Kah Mun Rah know about Napoleon and Capone, and all the historical figures talk modern, and speak English. Yet, they manage to squeeze some important cultural themes in there, like the milestones of Amelia Earhart and the Tuskegee Airmen.



Amelia is a wonderful character too. She’s feisty and independent but still romantic. See ladies, you can be successful and still open your heart to love. Jonah Hill’s scene is the funniest though. It feels like an improv riff where they just picked apart a situation and all its tough guy clichés.

There’s some typical sequel stuff like Larry now has to be in a different but equally bad position as the first movie. So now he’s rich, no longer a loser, but he’s too obsessed with business and texting, because Hollywood hates successful people. It’s impossible for someone to be an entrepreneur and maintain their values. So the exhibits have to re-ignite his passion. Luckily, once the action picks up, the film mostly loses Larry’s “lesson” so it’s just a fun romp.

A profound theme is totally abandoned. When Theodore Roosevelt points out that the exhibits separated from the tablet will lose their life, that’s really deep, especially with Robin Williams going all <B>Dead Poets</b>. I suppose those are the stakes for the whole movie, keeping the tablet in safe hands, and Larry remembering how important the night life is.

The awesome never gets too chaotic. I think we would actually like to see a rocket launch happen in the middle of Air and Space, but Larry does have to keep some order. If he let that happen, then the secret of the tablet would be out.

And of course there’s still some bad CGI. The worst effect was actually the miniature actors in the regular sized scene. They haven’t perfected that yet? But in this case, the jokes are funny and the ideas magical so it’s close enough.

I liked Battle of the Smithsonian so much, I’m probably going to give Night at the Museum another chance. I should probably learn my lesson from giving National Treasure a second chance after loving its sequel. It was actually as bad as I remembered but I can’t help myself with Museum. Maybe all this good stuff was in the first one and I missed it. Or maybe some of these series need a practice run to get it right.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of 20th Century Fox
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