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Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
An unnecessary sequel to a poorly-reviewed hit.
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
Ben Stiller Stars in "Night at the Museum 2."
OPENING WEEKEND: $45,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $140,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 23rd, 2009: In bringing the Smithsonian museum to life, sequel also will introduce historical figures to the franchise, including Amelia Earhart.

What to Expect: I've kinda given up trying to predict which comedies will do well and which ones won't. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, which I guess shouldn't really be surprising to me after all this time. It seems like every month there's another slate of three or four exquisitely dumb-looking comedies (a few of which will turn out to be smart comedies masquerading as dumb comedies for marketing purposes), most of which will flop and one or two of which will inexplicably become smash hits.

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I mean, come on. Who didn't think "Night at the Museum" looked dumb when it came out? It looked like a second-rate knock-off of "Jumanji," which was kind of a second-rate knock-off in and of itself. I remember wondering what the heck Ben Stiller was doing in this dumb movie. Well, turns out Ben's got more than a few brain cells to rub together because the thing took off like a cat hit with a shot from a water pistol. Who knew? Then again, I'm still reeling from the success of "White Chicks."

These days, there are pretty much two actors who matter in comedy: Steve Carell and Ben Stiller. There are two kinds of comedy movies that matter: Judd Apatow comedies, and those which poach actors from Judd Apatow comedies. The Farrelly brothers? Yesterday's news. Eddie Murphy? Dead and buried. It's no wonder that the cycle of comedy success has such a short half-life. Anyone who's ever wrote or acted will tell you that drama and tragedy? They're easy. Comedy is hard.

I cannot figure Ben Stiller out. He's very smart, and very funny. It's in his genes. But his instinct for other people's comedy isn't so great. When he does his own work, it's great. Let's look at the films he's written or produced: Zoolander. Tropic Thunder. Dodgeball. Blades of Glory. All of these films were huge hits. I'm personally a huge fan of "Zoolander" and every time I watch it I laugh like a crazy person. Now let's look at comedies he's just acted in. It's a less impressive track record. Sure, there's "Something About Mary" and "Meet the Parents," but there's also "Along Came Polly," and "The Heartbreak Kid," and "Envy." He hits and he misses. He has a much better batting average when he's invested in the material and has input.

And then he goes and does "The Royal Tenenbaums" and I just don't know what to make of him again. But the thing about Ben Stiller is that even when his movies flop, he's always got half of Hollywood falling all over themselves to work with him.

Which brings me to "Night at the Museum," in which he played a hapless security guard beset by exhibits that came to life at night. Hijinks ensued, as they say. This little movie was a runaway smash, so it was a foregone conclusion that they'd do a sequel.

And as always, the sequel is promised to be bigger and better and funnier, and they're surely pulled all the stops with the casting. In addition to nearly the full complement from the first film (Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson) they've added Christopher Guest (a comedy god in his own right), Hank Azaria and Amy Adams. If this group of people can't bring the funny, nobody can.

Stiller is a huge fan of Steve Coogan, who you may remember (if not from the first "Museum") from his oddball indie comedy "Hamlet 2." Stiller was so keen to have him in "Tropic Thunder" and this Museum sequel that he flew to England and pretty much stalked the guy, although I have to wonder how much convincing someone really needs to come make some movies with one of the most successful comic actors of the new millennium. Coogan did appear in "Thunder" and is back here playing Octavius. Azaria is an Egyptian named Kah Mun Rah, Williams returns as Teddy Roosevelt, Guest is Ivan the Terrible and Apatow actor Bill Hader is General Custer. They've given Stiller's Larry Daley a love interest this time in the form of Adams' Amelia Earhart.

In the film, several of Daley's friends in his exhibits are shipped to the Smithsonian, so he follows and discovers that the exhibits there have just an active a nocturnal life as do the ones back home. The apparently unwritten rule that every comedy must include at least one Apatow actor is doubly fulfilled when Jonah Hill appears in a small role as another security guard. Setting the film at the Smithsonian certainly ups the stakes a bit and lets the crew explore more ground. Stiller says that the film explores several of the Institution's museums, including the Air and Space Museum and the National Galleries. The production paid over half a million dollars to the venerated Institution for use of their name, and at least some of the film was actually shot inside the museums. The nighttime activity of museum exhibits isn't limited to dusty dioramas...reports are that the Lincoln Memorial statue comes to life!

Okay. I admit it. That's cool.

There isn't much to say about the crew and cast of this film except that it's virtually the same exact group that made the first film, from director Shawn Levy to writers Robert Ben Garat and Thomas Lennon. Many of the original actors are returning, although Robin Williams is seeming more and more like a liability the older and less relevant he gets.

But let's talk turkey, shall we? One interesting aspect of this film's release is that it may have been a bargaining chip in the war between Fox and Warner Bros. over the "Watchmen" distribution rights. According to sources, Fox initially demanded that the WB give them 10% of the "Watchmen" grosses and distribution revenues, which Warner couldn't quite swallow. So some horse-trading was attempted with the release dates of various films, including this one. One demand by Fox was the WB move the opening day of "Terminator: Salvation" because it coincided with this film's release, and they were afraid that "Museum" would get lost in the stampede towards "Terminator." This deal did not go down, however, since the production company that made "Terminator" had the Memorial Day release date stipulated in its contract. But it seems clear that Fox isn't too happy about opening this film against "Terminator." It might seem at first glance that the two films would have wildly different target demographics, but that isn't really the case. Both films are depending heavily on the teenage-boy and young-man demo, so fighting for those dollars could cost one or the other.

In Conclusion: A smash hit comedy repeating the same basic formula, just MORE, is usually a safe bet. This film is opening Memorial Day weekend when the films will be flying fast and furious, so getting lost in the shuffle is a possibility, but parents looking for a family-friendly film for the kids while school's out may help boost the film's box office. I think it's virtually guaranteed to at least match the original's take.

Similar Titles: Night at the Museum, Jumanji, Cheaper by the Dozen
May 22nd, 2009 (wide)
December 1st, 2009 (DVD)

20th Century Fox

Shawn Levy

Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Ed Helms, Christopher Guest, Jon Bernthal, Bill Hader, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Steve Coogan

Total: 44 vote(s).

Comedy, Kids & Family, Fantasy

Click here to view site

Rated PG for mild action and brief language.

105 min





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