HiH review: Night at the Museum 2

by Claire Ramsey

As an amateur movie reviewer, I find it interesting what movies other reviewers like and dislike.

I think there must be some kind of movie overkill that happens if you see most every movie that comes out, and yet there is balance too. I sometimes feel like I write the same review over and over, and I wonder if it is because I watch only those movies in which I am interested, which, perhaps by definition, means I watch similar-type movies. Perhaps I also should be looking for balance. However, there is not much balance to be found in Night at the Museum 2.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved this movie. I think in many ways I liked it better than the first one, because the premise was not so self-serious. In Night at the Museum, there were a lot of potentially dramatic plot points: Ben Stiller’s Larry’s disconnect with his ex-wife, the danger of losing his son, his frustrated attempts to start his own business as an inventor, the sinister behavior of the former security guards, etc. etc. Night at the Museum 2 does away with all that and reduces the drama to two major plot points: Larry’s now-successful inventing company is sucking up all his time and energy, without giving much back; and, the older brother of the cute Pharaoh from I (painfully acted by Hank Azaria) is determined to take over the world. End of drama. The rest of the hour and a half is just fun playing around with the concept of a magical tablet that brings museum exhibits to life, and the incredible wealth of possible material that is the Smithsonian Museum(s).

Never mind that the consistency of what is affected by the magical tablet and where it seems to yo-yo. Never mind that talented actors like Christopher Guest (The Princess Bride‘s Count Rugen) get next-to-nothing to do. Never mind plot holes big enough to hold the Smithsonian itself (the older brother pharaoh knows about the power of the tablet HOW? He’s from the Smithsonian — the tablet was in NY; even if both brothers had access to it in Egypt, what museum exhibits were there to bring to life? Ah, the joys of over-analysis…)

Only purist sci-fi fantasy geeks like me will be annoyed by bad world-building. This movie is just plain pop-corny (emphasis on the corny) FUN and there is something for everyone! (Below are SPOILERS!)

Tots? Who can resist elephant-size dancing balloon animals?

Preschoolers (or people who were preschoolers in the 80’s)? A cameo by Oscar the Grouch is worth the entire admission price.

Sci-fi or retro fans? Guess who is right next to Oscar — who else but Darth Vader?

Like noir? Meet Al Capone, in his original black and white…

History buffs and art lovers? How can they resist the American Gothic painting and famous sailor-nurse kissing photos coming to life? Or Amelia Earhart? Or the Tuskegee Airmen? Or Custer? Or… ok, I have to stop now since this category takes up the whole rest of the movie!

And of course, for the fans of Museum I, there are all the fun originals back again: Easter Island Dum-Dum, puppy/Tyrannosaur Sue, the wise-cracking mini-cowboy and centurion, Sacajawea, the enthusiastic cavemen, and, of course, Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt (x 3 — look for his two other Teddy appearances.)

For my part, it doesn’t hurt that one of the cavemen is played by actor Kerry van der Griend who I remember so vividly from the Calvin College production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle my father directed. I was in high school and spent many an afternoon doing homework (or pretending to) while watching Circle rehearsals… Bravo Kerry!