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DVD Review

DVD cover

Night at the Museum 2
Battle of the Smithsonian


Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat and Steve Coogan
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 09 November 2009

When the Museum of Natural History in New York closes for renovation the exhibits are downhearted to learn that they will spend the rest of their days deep in the archives of the Smithsonian. Facing a future without the tablet that gives them life each night they bid a sad farewell to New York and to security-guard-turned-billionaire-inventor Larry as they make their way to Washington. Trapped in the vast archives of the Smithsonian it’s not long before the exhibits realize the move has gone disastrously wrong. The tablet of Ahkmenrah was smuggled into the museum with them and is bringing to life some of the most notorious villains in history. Determined to rescue his friends from the historical crooks, Larry makes a courageous dash to Washington to face an army that includes the ominous Pharaoh Kahmunrah, legendary mobster Al Capone, the terrifying Ivan the Terrible and military dictator Napoleon Bonaparte...

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian picks up the story not too long after the first movie. However, Larry (played once again by Ben Stiller) is no longer the museum's night watchman. He's made his fortune with his own company which has introduced items like the glow-in-the-dark torch into the market.

When Larry discovers that some of the exhibits are to be moved into permanent storage he's saddened, but there's very little he can do about it. However, a few days later Larry gets a phone call from his old friend Jedediah (Owen Wilson), who is desperate for Larry's help. Apparently the life giving tablet of Ahkmenrah has been smuggled into storage and Larry's old friends are being attacked by some of the most evil exhibits in the Smithsonian. Pharaoh Kahmunrah wants the tablet and he's employed the likes of Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible and Napoleon Bonaparte.

I don't know what it was about the opening to this movie, but it stirred something in me I haven't felt since I went to the cinema to see Back to the Future. It could be Alan Silvestri's opening theme, or the long sweeping shot of the museum exhibits that makes the film look so grand, but this film really did take me back to the days when it was exciting to go and see the summer blockbusters.

This movie retreads familiar ground. We are introduced to the new characters which are housed in the Smithsonian. One, like Rexy in the first movie, is at first thought to be a vicious monster... that is until Larry realises why it's actually so angry. And then it's down to Larry to lead his old friends in fight against the evil exhibits.

Hank Azaria's Pharaoh Kahmunrah is a little too over the top to be taken seriously. He milks the role to the limit and then milks it some more. In fact it's not far off a pantomime villain performance.

Noteworthy guest actors include Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel in This is Spinal Tap) as Ivan the Terrible; Bill Hader as General Custer; and Jonah Hill as Brundon the Security Guard (in what appears to be the movie's one adlibbed scene. In fact it's this scene's "don't touch the exhibit" gag which was rather sloppily repeated later in the movie. Mildly funny the first time... not funny the second.

There are also brief appearances by Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, as well as an interesting pay off, to an earlier scene, that is buried in the closing credits.

Extras are a little poor. All we get are Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words (6 min, 14 sec with some of the supporting actors talking candidly while in character); and Primate Prima Donnas (6 min, 12 sec look at the monkeys which were used in filming). There's also a digital copy of the movie which can be used on your iPod or other personal video player.

While an enjoyable romp, this film never quite matches the quality of the first movie.


Darren Rea

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