"Night at the Museum" sequel a better exhibit

Wed May 20, 2009 10:27pm EDT
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By Michael Rechtshaffen

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Those creaky exhibits come to life once again in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," and this time around there's a little more life on display.

While its wildly successful 2006 predecessor (more than $250 million in North America alone) certainly struck a universal chord with that "what if?" fantasy premise, its wobbly execution left a lot of room for improvement.

Noticeable improvements have been made by returning director Shawn Levy and the writing team of Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.

Some of that frenetic running around has been replaced by inspired effects sequences and amusing riffs by the talented cast, especially new arrivals Hank Azaria as a less-than-menacing Egyptian pharaoh with a world domination complex and pistol Amy Adams, who makes for a particularly spirited Amelia Earhart.

That will likely translate into grown-ups enjoying this one more at the expense of their less-engaged kids, but the upshot is still certain to be another smash for Fox when the picture opens on Friday.

Having traded in his flashlight for a profitable career as a gadget inventor, Ben Stiller's Larry Daley finds himself drawn back to his former job as a night security guard upon finding out many of his old Museum of Natural History cohorts have been crated up and shipped off to the Smithsonian archives in Washington.

To make matters worse, that powerful golden tablet has awakened their new neighbors, including Akhmenrah's blustery big brother Kahmunrah (Azaria), who has formed a de facto axis of evil with Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat) and a grainy, black and white Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), intent on unleashing the Army of the Underworld.

Granted access to shooting in the sprawling Smithsonian complex, the production is focused primarily on the Air & Space Museum, the Smithsonian Castle and the Lincoln Memorial.   Continued...

<p>Actors (L-R) Owen Wilson, Amy Adams, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais and Hank Azaria answer reporters' questions in the Smithsonian Castle during a news conference to discuss their new movie, "A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" in Washington May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Giroux</p>