Thu May 14, 2009
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Not the big leagues.
By John DeSando, WCBE's
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller): "This is the Smithsonian! This is the big leagues!"
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is not the big leagues of comedy; in fact it is bush league, and I don't mean even made for Dick Cheney. It's a silly sequel to the original Night: Former guard at the Museum of Natural History, Larry Daley, returns after becoming successful to free his artifact friends from being moved to The Smithsonian Museum.
And that's all folks because this limply imaginative fantasy where famous figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart come alive at night is no more than a series of sophomoric set pieces using a Cliff Notes approach to history. Indeed, it is more like a bad high-school knock off of Saturday Night Live.
Occasionally, however, there is a funny moment such as when Egyptian ruler Kah Mun Rah (Hank Azara, with a fey lisp more distracting than humorous) says to Darth Vader, "Is that you breathing? Because I can't hear myself think! There's too much going on here; you're asthmatic, you're a robot. And why the cape? Are we going to the opera? I don't think so." Amy Adams is not so much funny as she is a cute Amelia Earhart, another distraction, this time because of her tightly tailored stretch pants and leather aviator jacket. When she exclaims in surprise, "Great Gatsby," she won me over to her and the potential of the film to rake in the allusions.
In order to save this film from my complete condemnation, I list some of the historical figures you might wish to see played by recognizable actors:
Ivan the Terrible
More ingenious than these figures is the animation of famous paintings such as Hopper's Nighthawks and Wood's American Gothic, which become actively engaged in the museum mayhem.
Currently this film is at the top of the week's box office, and the Museum of Natural History has increased its attendance by 25 %. Who am I to stop the museum from profiting while comedy dies? Comedy may now be a moribund artifact itself.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com