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Published: Friday, 5/22/2009

Movie review: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian **

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Night at the Museum was a funny enough movie. But what really made it stand out from other comedies was its originality.

Now, more than two years later, reduce the laughs by half and take out the novelty of wax figures coming to life and what you have is Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a movie that proves to be pointless - even by sequel standards.

Ben Stiller returns as Larry Daley, who recently left his job as New York's American Museum of Natural History night watchman to run a successful company selling his quirky inventions, including a glow-in-the-dark flashlight. Larry finally may have the success he's always dreamed of, but that hasn't translated into happiness. So he stops by the museum now and again to see his friends. Then he learns many of the life-size wax mannequins and miniature figurines are being transferred to the archives of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington - only without the magical Egyptian tablet that brings them to life between dusk and dawn.

Dexter, the trouble-making monkey from the first Night at the Museum, steals the tablet and takes it with him to the Smithsonian, causing new inanimate figures to spring to life. This includes wax figures of Egyptian Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), the evil older brother of Ahkmenrah; Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest); Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat), and other mannequins as well as statues and paintings.

Kahmunrah plans to use the all-powerful tablet to conquer the world. Standing in his way are former New York museum residents, including Jedediah Smith (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan), and Larry, who teams up with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) and General Custer (Bill Hader).

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian works excruciatingly hard to generate laughs, but to no avail; most of the good jokes about a living museum were covered in the first film. What's left is a not-so-fresh story that adheres to the first rule of sequels: if one was funny, two is supposed to be funnier.

In other words, You thought Night at the Museum's waxy residents were hysterical? Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian gives you double the characters to chuckle at.

And you thought pairing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson made for some great laughs in the original? The sequel throws Guest, Azaria, and Jonah Hill into the mix.

However, as is usually the case with Part Twos, more proves to be less with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. You know a comedy is in trouble when reliable talents like Azaria and Guest seem lost in stretched-to-the-max improvisational bits that hardly seem worth the effort.

A bright spot in the film is Adams as Earhart, even though her pre-World War II slang wears thin (think Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hudsucker Proxy).

By far the funniest moment in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian belongs to Stiller and Hill, after Larry breaks a cardinal rule by a Smithsonian security guard (Hill). After the painfully funny scene, Hill exits the movie, costing the comedy some much-needed laughs.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian brings back screenwriters Robert Garant and Thomas Lennon and director Shawn Levy from the first go-round. But they've simply run out of fresh ideas.

Contact Kirk Baird at

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.



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