In Night at the Museum, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) takes a job as the night watchman at Brooklyn's Museum of Natural History only to discover that an ancient Egyptian curse brings all the exhibits to life after the museum is closed. It's a fun-filled, hilarious story that sparked the imaginations of kids all over the world. Well, now Larry and the gang are back in a bigger (but not necessarily better) adventure. This time the story takes place at the Smithsonian, but while this film is pretty good, it's not as great as the first.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
When the story begins, we find that Larry is now a big-shot businessman who has his own company (called Daley Devices) that makes and sells his inventions. It's been two years since he left his job at the museum and they are now doing renovations to replace the exhibits with interactive holograms. The exhibits are moved safely to the Smithsonian, but Dexter the monkey has stolen Ahkmenrah's Tablet and now all the Smithsonian exhibits have come to life.
So, what's the problem? Well, the Smithsonian is home to many of history's evil villains, including Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) – Ahkmenrah's evil brother. Kahmunrah wants to take over the world, but he needs the Tablet to do it. So he enlists the help of Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napleon (Alain Chabat), and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) to capture Larry's friends and get the Tablet. Of course, Larry drops everything and runs to the aid of his historical friends with some help from some new characters – Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) and General Custer (Bill Hader).
Larry and Amelia team up to keep the Tablet away from Kahmunrah and his evil partners, while General Custer attempts to lead the Brooklyn Museum characters to try and escape since they were captured. The action takes place in many different parts of the Smithsonian, but of course, Kahmunrah eventually gets his hands on the Tablet. He then calls forth his minions from Hell, but does he succeed in taking over the world? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.
Battle of the Smithsonian on Blu-ray
Although the original Night at the Museum had some problems with its Blu-ray picture, Battle of the Smithsonian doesn't suffer from any anomalies. The scenes are crisp and clear, the colors are vibrant, and the film provides a great visual experience. The format provided is 1080p MPEG-4 with a 2.32:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
Audio for the film is provided as a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround Sound track with wonderful music, as well as great dialog and effects. All the actors voices are clear and easy to hear even over the loud action sequences. The surround channels are used judiciously to provide nice support for the overall sound of the movie.
Battle of the Smithsonian Bonus Features
Overall most of the supplemental material is good, although I consider a few of the featurettes to be a waste of space – I would have liked to see more coverage of the Smithsonian and its exhibits so as to provide some educational material for viewers. To start, there are Audio Commentaries that provide two tracks – one with director Shawn Levy (a bit on the boring side) and another with script writers Robert Garant and Thomas Lennon (who offer some great entertainment and information). Curators of Comedy: Behind the Scenes of Night at the Museum 2 is a 28-minute featurette of the typical behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Phinding Pharaoh is an entertaining audition tape showing off Hank Azaria's voice acting skills as he tries to find the right vocal performance for his Kahmunrah character.
Show Me the Monkey provides a fun look at how Crystal (the Capuchin monkey in the film) is trained, how she lives, and what it's like to be a monkey movie star. The Jonas Brothers in Cherub Bootcamp is a spoof on how the Brothers were trained for their cherub roles in the film. This is one of the extras that I think is a waste of space. Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, and Trailers all provide the type of content that their names imply.
Blu-ray disc buyers get access to another set of bonus features, some of which are good and others not so good. Scavenger Hunt Mode is a cool feature that you can have active during the film in which you look for random artifacts throughout the museum. Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words is a humorous attempt at spoofing some of the historical characters in the film but it's not all that funny. Directing 201: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy is a really interesting 19-minute featurette about a single day's worth of work on the filmmaking process. Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest is another of those features that is a waste of space. It's not even worth describing.
More Blu-ray bonus features include Museum Magic: Entering the World of the Photograph is a pretty interesting piece about how they filmed the parts of the movie where the characters enter Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph. Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes at the American Museum of Natural History is my favorite bonus feature because it takes you on a guided tour of how the museum operates and what scientists do there. The only downside is that it's a mere 16-minutes long. Gangster Levy is a short skit that Shawn Levy and his assistant director shot and starred in for a small scene that never made it into the film. Deleted Scenes provides six more deleted scenes for Blu-ray fans. Finally, Fox Movie Channel Presents includes coverage of how the Air & Space Museum was filmed as well as the premiere night of the movie. The Blu-ray package also includes the movie on DVD and Digital Copy for portable media players.
Battle of the Smithsonian is Bigger but not Better
Let me start off by saying that it is always more difficult to make sequel. You have to try to create that same magic that made the original such a success. Unfortunately, Battle of the Smithsonian doesn't do that. It's more about the action and effects, rather than the story. That doesn't mean it's a bad film, it just isn't as good as its predecessor. The film is still fun for kids and adult fans may also like it, so I can still recommend it – but don't expect as much fun. And if you haven't seen Night at the Museum, be sure to watch that first and then take a look at Battle of the Smithsonian.
For more information:
* Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Blu-ray)
* Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (DVD)