Have we lost our sense of fun? Our zest for merry abandon?
If you want proof, or some kind of sorry indication that Hollywood is calling in family comedies with a lame, careless and lazy torpor, consider the sequel “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” in which Ben Stiller reprises his role as Larry Daley, former night guard turned inventor of household gadgets. It’s Larry to the rescue when he realizes his friends who come alive at night will be packed, shipped and relegated to oblivion at the Smithsonian in D.C.
To make matters more perilous, he’s up against the notorious Egyptian ruler, Kahmunrah, played by a sneering Hank Azaria, who also takes a bumbling stab at impersonating Abe Lincoln. The imminent peril: Now that he has been unleashed, the wild Egyptian will take over the world.
Where’s the laughter?
‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’
DIRECTED BY Shawn Levy
SCREENPLAY BY Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
STARRING Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais
RUNNING TIME 105 minutes
Nothing to worry about, but worse yet, precious little to laugh about. Even though they are dated, I’ve had more fun at Abbott & Costello mummy movies. At least you can feel life; here, as directed by Shawn Levy, we have impressive animatronics with a mechanical heart. This is not a movie, but a project duty-bound to advertise the wonders of the Smithsonian. It’s as if some tin-man guru inserted a program into a computer, called off some historical names and began it with a yawn; the result hardly qualifies as a witty, daring or wild example of the imagination.
But all the way to the bank, you can whiff the hollow surety of success, the sound of jingle. You get the feeling that Stiller and Levy called their friends for an impersonation contest. From the first battle, Robin Williams and Owen Wilson
show up and do nothing except put on dress, makeup and attitude. Added to the cast, but with no apparent reason, are dudes playing Al Capone and Napoleon. Ricky Gervais comes on board as curator (dull).
And now for the leading lady: It’s Amy Adams as pilot Amelia Earhart, and as fit and trim and dapper as she looks, do not seek sparks — romantic or otherwise. Her bland performance speaks not to her enthusiasm but to the stultifying nature of the script. It’s Adams as ingenue, the obligatory female lead. She fizzles.
Of course, there are edges of humor, but with lines like “I want adventure, damnit, I want in,” it’s pretty hopeless. And what are we going to do with Christopher Guest, who plays Ivan the Terrible like a sludge?
Maybe Stiller called his friends and said something like, “Hey, guys, let’s get dressed up and make a movie.” Isn’t that the impulse motivating kids, what, in junior high?
It’s an exaggeration because, as you might imagine, the museum sequel shines with glossy, studio polish. The bottom line is that we — especially kids — deserve better. We have a right to demand something wild and zany and even more informative than presenting a lame lineup of famous and infamous characters from our historical past.
This is one lazy movie, and little more than an obligatory response to a 2006 box office bonanza.