Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Rating: C-

Dir: Shawn Levy
Star: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Owen Wilson

While the original was, if not quite a guilty pleasure, at least an amiable way to pass the time, this one feels like nothing more than a soulless cash-in. The first had a quirky concept: the inhabitants of a museum come to light at night, to the consternation of security guard Larry (Stiller). Now, said guard is an infomercial magnate – for no real reason – and it takes quite some convolution by the plot to get him back in his uniform and running around the Smithsonian archives, where his pals, and the ancient Egyptian tablet which activates them, have been placed in storage.

Evil pharaoh Kahmunrah (Azaria) wants to use the tablet to raise an army from the dead and conquer the world, with the help of assorted figures from history, such as Napoleon, so its up to Larry and his assorted figures from history, such as Amelia Earhart (Adams) to prevent the plan from coming to fruition. It’s as if the makers were surprised by the success of the first, and rather than opting to develop the story in any way, decided to take the safe, tedious route and have little more than a retread. Enjoy seeing Stiller slapped about by a capuchin monkey in the original? Well, we’ll have him slapped about by two capuchin monkeys here.

Because that’ll be twice as funny, right? Hey! Where are you going! Adams is the only person who appears to have been conscious during the film-making, delivering a feisty performance which has some life, when she gets the chance to do more than gawk at the digital effects. The film also opts to lob in some artworks which come to life, such as the American Gothic painting and even a work by Jeff Koons – unfortunately, not Made in Heaven – but to no point beyond showing up. Much the same can be said of the endeavour as a whole, serving no particular purpose, except to wring dollars cynically, from the pockets of the audience.