A handful of clever historical references, a thundering action score from Alan Silvestri, and a remarkable cast (and an even more impressive list of cameos) can’t mask what Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian truly is – a really, really stupid comedy. Though it’s written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 fame, don’t expect such creatively crude humor, or for that matter, any laughs even remotely geared towards adults. It may inevitably make an obscene amount of the green stuff at the box office, but we’re hoping for a long break before part three.
Shortly after his phenomenal adventures in the Museum of Natural History, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) is again called back into action to protect his re-animated exhibits from a brand new evil. When he receives a distress call from Jedediah Smith (Owen Wilson), Larry infiltrates the Smithsonian to discover Egyptian pharaoh Kahmunrah’s (Hank Azaria) plans to use the magical tablet to summon forth his army of the undead. With time quickly running out, the former museum night guard must rally together his old friends – and a few new ones, including Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) and General Custer (Bill Hader) – to stop the ancient menace.
Without knowledge of the first film, Battle of the Smithsonian might leave viewers slightly bewildered. Fortunately, the reasoning behind bringing notorious historical characters to life in a family-friendly bloodless battle of wills doesn’t need much explaining. What does need clarification is why a sequel was necessary. The entire show appears as little more than an excuse to pack tons of cameo roles into a pointless rehash. A centuries-old Egyptian pharaoh (with a lisp) wishes to unlock the gates to the underworld to unleash an army of the dead? It’s a despairingly tired scenario that fails to parody as much as it flounders in its own lack of creativity. Even as an excuse to toss jokes into a cartoonish world, it only half succeeds.
Since all of the humor falls flat, the dialogue is smothered with sarcasm, mocking the film’s own inadequacies as an attempt to recoup laughs lost to extremely juvenile hoopla. Unfortunately the entire approach of the film is cheesy. Just when it couldn’t possibly get any sillier, someone comes up with something positively ridiculous to do or say. It’s a good thing Capone never bothers to use his machinegun, spears and swords never strike their targets, and no real peril ever finds its way into the numerous melees. It’s like two very young kids arguing with one another for 105 minutes. The icing on the cake is a slap-fight between two capuchins and Stiller during the midst of the climactic final battle sequence – for no plot reason whatsoever, simply to make use of the payroll monkeys.
– The Massie Twins