movie film review | chris tookey

Night at the Museum 2

© 20th Century Fox - all rights reserved
  Night at the Museum 2 Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
4.33 /10
Ben Stiller, Amy Adams , Hank Azaria
Full Cast >

Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Released: 2009
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 105

A good time for all ages.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Sequels are much maligned, and rightly so. Most are rip-offs, rushed into production to satisfy studio accountants, before a decent script can materialise.

I approached Night at the Museum 2 with especially low expectations, since the first Night owed its impressive performance at the box office not to quality, but to lack of competition. There weren’t any family-friendly films up against it, and the trailer promised better entertainment than it delivered.

But Night at the Museum 2 turns out to be the kind of fast-moving, goofy fun that the first film should have been.

It shares its premise: what happens to all the displays in a museum when the lights are out and the visitors have gone home? But this is a vast improvement on the original in three respects.

First, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon’s script is far more inventive than their first attempt.

Secondly, much more money has been invested, with spectacular results.

The third new element – and the one which gives the movie its magic, changing it from a 3-star hit to a 4-star movie that’s worth anyone making the effort to see - is Amy Adams (pictured right), the delightful star of Enchanted, who is equally captivating here as the pioneer pilot Amelia Earhart, who went missing over the Pacific in 1937.

The picture starts as a sardonic take on the American Dream. Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, pictured left) is no longer night guard at New York’s Museum of Natural History. Aggressive TV marketing of his inventions, Daley Devices, has made him rich; but his marriage is over, and he’s lost his sense of fun and adventure.

He is resigned and depressed, rather than determined to act, when he discovers from his old museum boss (Ricky Gervais) that his nocturnal buddies, the exhibits at the Natural History Museum, are now deemed “out of date”, and being taken away to a store-room beneath the Smithsonian Institution at Washington DC.

But then Larry receives a distress call from the toy cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson). Larry discovers a way into the Smithsonian vaults and finds that some exceedingly nasty exhibits have woken up, among them the Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria with an elaborate headdress, a wildly improbable lisp and 3000 years’ worth of grievances). He is plotting with his ill-assorted henchmen Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Berthal) to take over the Smithsonian - and then, of course, the planet - by unleashing the Army of the Underworld, no less.

Larry has until dawn to stop them. Fortunately, he finds a new sidekick in the feistiest, most fast-talking waxwork in the museum, Amelia Earhart (Adams), who helps him rediscover what she calls his “moxie”, his can-do spirit, his sense of fun and adventure.

The makers of this film have rediscovered their moxie, too. There’s a splendidly surreal visual imagination to the whole movie, with some sights that you’ll never have thought to see, including Steve Coogan as a berserk Roman centurion riding into battle on a squirrel, Rodin’s Thinker proving a disappointment as an intellectual but a big help in a fight, and the statue of Abraham Lincoln stepping down from the Lincoln Memorial to kick some Ancient Egyptian ass.

I wouldn’t make any claims for this movie as art, but if it encourages more families to visit museums and rediscover history, including the real stories behind such names as General Custer (amusingly portrayed by Bill Hader) and Amelia Earhart (soon to have her own biopic, in which she’ll be played by Hilary Swank), then it will have been culturally useful.

But the unique selling point of this movie is that, largely thanks to the extraordinary Amy Adams, it rediscovers the zany spirit of screwball comedy that was such an endearing feature of the Thirties and the Forties.

Following in the footsteps of such Golden Era greats as the young, feisty Katharine Hepburn and the adorable Claudette Colbert, Adams has assets that no amount of money can buy, and no amount of marketing can create.

They’re called zest, panache and charm. Thanks to her, this picture has all three qualities in abundance.

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