Ben Stiller returns as museum security guard Larry Daley in ‘Night at the Museum 2’. The first film revolved around his struggle to retain order in a museum – when a magical tablet brought all the exhibits and sculptures literally to life. Flash forward three years. Daley is now a millionaire off of selling such hot products as glow in the dark flashlights, leaving behind his old job as museum night guard.
But the museum undergoes reconstruction, sending all its old exhibits to the Smithsonian National Archives – and the magical tablet with it. When Daley realizes this he flies to Washington DC and sneaks into the underground National Archives – only to realize that the tablet has brought to life every single exhibit, person, painting, sculpture and plane in all 17 Smithsonian museums.
An assortment of villains – Napoleon Bonaparte, Al Capone (cleverly rendered in black-and-white), Ivan the Terrible, and an evil prince named Kahmunrah come out and seize the tablet to use for their own evil ends. Daley then teams up with Amelia Earhart to retrieve the tablet, save Larry’s friends, and restore order throughout the Smithsonian complex.
The film is littered with dozens upon dozens of cameos. Ricky Gervais, Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader as General Custer, Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt, the Tuskegee Airmen, Owen Wilson as Jebediah, and Jay Baruchel. Jonah Hill has a brief, but hilarious role as a tight-wound Smithsonian security guard. Even the Jonas Brothers show up as three singing baby cherubs. (This produced at least 15 teenage squeals in my theater) Ben Stiller does admittedly look a little bored, but he’s generally funny.
However, its two actors that make the movie click. Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart brings an enthusiastic zing to the whole film, gleefully delivering exclamations like “We’ve been jimjacked!” and “Great Gatsby!”, and spontaneously kissing Ben Stiller from time to time. And Hank Azaria, a voice actor from ‘The Simpsons’, plays the evil Kahmunrah as an eccentric freak with an odd lisp, but is still convincingly evil. He gets the best scenes. A personal favorite of mine being when Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch audition for being Kahmunrah’s minions, whilst Kahmunrah belittles Darth Vader about his cape and his heavy breathing.
Special effects are present in virtually every frame of the film. Although a couple sequences are redundant, (Daley and Earhart flying her plane out of the Air and Space museum) some moments are particularly awe-inspired. There is an extent of magic to seeing a walking, talking, full-size Lincoln Memorial interact with Ben Stiller, and eventually plays a big role in the film’s climax.
Long story short, it’s much better than the mostly bland first film, and I think that can be equally attributed to the great cast and the awesome visual effects. And the fact that the first wasn’t very good. It improves on the original. A good choice for families. B+