Say whatever you may about the quality of Night at the Museum films, you can’t deny that they consist of some of the craziest fantasy fiction. It’s just a pity that they’re rarely executed in the form of a good movie. With other films getting a disappointing sequel, the reason is that they mostly happen to follow film(s) that most people loved, but with Night at the Museum, the disappointment resides with the fact that the premise is so unique, yet rarely utilized. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is not only another weak execution of the premise but is also somewhat worse than the first film.
The first film at least managed to be a little above average due to little nuances here and there, but this film either tries replicating things that worked in the first film or offers misfire additions.
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The Movie Review
The film is set three years after the events of the first movie. Larry Daley has now left his duty as the night guard of the American Museum of Natural History and runs a direct response television company of his own that sells brand new inventions based on everything he’s garnered from his life at the museum.
He decides to visit the museum after work one day, where he gets to know that most of the exhibits are being moved to the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institute, while the museum would now house holographic information providers.
Larry chooses to spend one last night with the exhibits before they’re permanently moved away. As soon as things begin to activate, Teddy Roosevelt reveals to Larry that Rexy, Teddy himself, and Ahkmenrah, alongside the Tablet of Ahkmenrah, would be staying at the museum, while all the other exhibits move to the Smithsonian Institute, which would result in the other exhibits no longer being able to come to life at nighttime.
Larry then gets to know that the monkey Dexter somehow managed to get the Tablet of Ahkmenrah to the Smithsonian Institute, resulting in the exhibits there coming to life as well. Larry rushes for an adventure to Washington DC and poses as a nightguard to investigate what goes on in the museum.
There, Larry and his friends meet a vast range of new and weird characters, including Ahkmenrah’s evil older brother Kahmunrah, who causes a lot of trouble for them. There begins a fantasy-comedy-survival dynamic, with Larry and his friends, as well as the other exhibits trying to survive the wrath of Kahmunrah.
The film makes for a typical fantasy-comedy, and considering how twisted the premise itself is, a less stereotypical villain would’ve helped the film greatly. It just fails to have interesting characters, even though it’s nothing downright terrible.
Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon’s writing for the film barely makes an impact. It repeats a bunch of the first film’s mistakes and is worse at a bunch of aspects At least the first film had a personal character arc for Larry that made one root for him.
Here, both Larry and Kahmunrah are barely interesting characters. The exhibit characters are twisted and weird only in idea, but in execution, a director like Tim Burton would’ve done them more justice. Shawn Levy is not a bad director per se, but such a premise doesn’t fit his style of direction. John Schwartzman’s cinematography is at times good, but at times quite campy. Alan Silvestri’s original score is one of his weakest works too.
The Bottom Line
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is nothing to recommend others against, but it’s middling either way and something that one should watch only if they loved the first film. It features a very interesting underlying idea, but the direction, writing, and any other aspect barely help make it something actually good.