Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Directed by Shawn Levy
Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest
Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 1, 2009
I’ll be honest, when I found out the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History would be coming to life on screen once more in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian I wasn’t all that enthusiastic. I figured the “magic” was already revealed in the first movie and that this sequel would just be more of the same. Let’s face it, the first film, which starred Ben Stiller as Larry Daley, a night guard at the Museum of Natural History in New York, was a hit, so why mess with a perfect formula? That’s why screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant were smart enough to stick with what drew audiences in initially — the inanimate exhibit figures coming to life at sundown and Larry fighting villains attempting to gain control of a powerful object — while making it much more than just a simple repeat of its predecessor.
The sequel finds Larry out of his museum night guard duds and into the role of CEO of Daley Devices, the company founded to sell his inventions, like the The Glow-In-The-Dark Flashlight and The Unloseable Keyring. The successful Larry decides to visit his old place of employment, the Museum of Natural History, the setting of 2006’s Night at the Museum, which is now closed for renovations and its famous exhibits packed away in crates to be sent to permanent storage at the Smithsonian Institute’s Federal Archives in Washington DC. After hours, the figures come to life and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) explains that the Pharaoh Ahkmenrah’s Tablet, which is what animates the figures at sundown, won’t be going to the Archives with everyone else. While the situation is dire for his friends, Larry is distracted by his phone’s incoming messages and all of his business ventures to do anything about it.
The next day, Larry finds out that Dexter, the Capuchin monkey, has taken the Tablet to the Archives, where Pharaoh Ahkmenrah’s evil brother Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) resides and now the ancient Egyptian wants to use the powerful Tablet to gain world dominance. Larry rushes to DC to help his friends and ally with lots of new famous historical figures, like Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) in an effort to thwart Kahmunrah’s evil plot.
Surprisingly, right in the beginning, I found myself thrilled to see the museum’s famous Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton awaken to playfully engage in a tug-o-war with Stiller’s Larry. And when it’s revealed that the famous exhibits would be stored away to sleep forever, I was actually saddened.
For those who’ve never seen the first movie, Battle of the Smithsonian is easy enough to follow, but the subtle explanation of the Tablet’s power might be the one part that confuses for new viewers. I didn’t even catch the quick reference to the Tablet’s ability to animate the figures in the museum the first time I watched the sequel, and I’m familiar with the first movie.
The magic of Night of the Museum is still in effect in its sequel, with the historical figures in action, this time in an even bigger museum — the Smithsonian. And it’s more than just the museum’s figures that step out of their diorama this time around.
Children will love the adventure, and getting to see so much wild activity at the Smithsonian makes it worth putting up with the film’s sometimes corny humor (and trust me, it can get super corny). Battle of the Smithsonian is a perfect fun family film.
“¢ Gag Reel
Putting comedic actors like Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, and Jonah Hill in one movie is a gag reel just waiting to happen. There are parts in the film that feel like that actors went crazy ad-libbing and it’s those scenes that are genuinely funny (unlike the aforementioned corny humor). This gag reel shows a lot of that ad-libbing and also how these actors just couldn’t keep a straight face around each other (can’t say I blame them).
“¢Â 12 Deleted Scenes Including Alternate Ending
These are all deleted or extended scenes, and it’s obvious why they were removed. Most go on for too long and would have slowed down the fast pace of the movie. With that said, they’re all worth watching as many reveal details about characters who get less face time; some show the historical figures finding out their future. There’s also an alternate ending with the three old guards from the first movie that I think should have been the theatrical ending, thought it might have felt too much like a set-up for a third film. You can watch all of these scenes with or without commentary by director Shawn Levy.
“¢Â Museum Scavenger Hunt Mode
This is a scavenger hunt game to play along with while watching the movie where you’re tasked with how well you know the museum’s treasures. There’s two difficulty levels to choose from: EASY or HARD. During the film, several icons will appear for a limited time on the left side of the screen which represent people and objects from the movie. When you spot an icon, you press a button on the remote; you earn Tablet icons if you’re correct, but if you’re incorrect, a buzzer goes off. I tried playing along in EASY mode and didn’t do as well as I thought I would, as it takes a while to realize what the icons are for. But, it’s a fun little game to play if you have the time.
“¢Â FOX Movie Channel Presents Featurettes
This goes in detail behind the scenes of the “No go for launch” scene where we meet the Tuskegee Airmen and see Amelia Earhart’s attempt to fly off. The filmmakers tried to make the scene really interactive and funny, which is why they put in familiar actors to have dialogue with Ben Stiller instead of having extras who don’t speak. This is why they went with a NASA/Mission Control feel and even got Clint Howard (who was in Apollo 13) to cameo for it.
“¢Â Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words (6:29)
The characters, like General Custer, young Al Capone, and Napoleon talk about what makes them great, why they’re special, and why they are better than the other museum inhabitants.
“¢Â Gangster Levy (1:52)
A very short featurette regarding the black & white film showing on a television screen one of the scenes with the young Al Capone. Levy and others donned some period garb to make to make the short clip used in the film.
“¢Â Director 201 With Shawn Levy (19:19)
A day in life of director/producer Shawn Levy working on Night at the Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian. We learn what Levy does, as well as his assistant’s role. We see Levy talking with members of his crew about their plans for the day, the shooting schedule, and other plans for complicated shots, including those with the second team, which are stand-in actors for the film’s stars. In this feature, we not only get the “reality” look at Levy’s day, but it’s part documentary with but Levy explaining to the audience a lot of film set terminology and explanations of what the crew members do.
“¢Â Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest (4:18)
A short featurette of an interview with three of the cavemen from the film, with in depth questions for them like “Caveman vs. Neanderthal.” Of course, they answer in Caveman, so it’s just a bunch of grunting. A waste of four-plus minutes. They’re no Geico cavemen.
“¢Â Museum Magic: Entering The World Of The Photograph (5:41)
This is a short behind-the-scenes featurette from the scene in the film where they go into the famous black and white photograph of the sailor kissing the nurse during the celebration at the end of World War II in Times Square in 1945.
“¢Â Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-scenes of The American Museum of Natural History (15:58)
This is a look at the actual American Museum of Natural History, as seen in both Night At the Museum movies. We see some of the exhibits from the actual museum, as well as the work that the museum’s restorationists and preservationists do.
“¢Â Phinding Pharaoh With Hank Azaria (4:50)
Director Shawn Levy talks about how they came up with how Hank Azaria should speak as the ancient Egyptian Kahmunrah. We see Azaria trying out many different accents for the role; there’s also interview footage with the actor.
“¢ Cherub Bootcamp (3:53)
Somehow, someway, I recognized that the film’s cherubs were the Jonas Brothers. This short featurette goes behind the scenes with the young musicians. I was tempted to skip right over this featurette, but it was actually quite funny, as Levy harasses the boys making them actually “act” like cherubs, with wings strapped on and everything.
“¢Â Show Me The Monkey: Monkey Mischief Featurettes (17:59)
Director Shawn Levy reveals what it was like working with Crystal, the talented monkey who played, Dexter, the Capuchin monkey in both Night At The Museum films. Apparently, this monkey works really hard and is much more talented then your average movie star monkey. Levy explains that while a lot of the animals in the films were CGI, they chose to go with the monkey to be real life to play against Ben Stiller. They thought it would be the most comedic effect, and this monkey had to get into a slap fight with Stiller’s night watchman Larry in both movies. Stiller also talks about working with Crystal, and we see Crystal in action off screen too. These are very cute featurettes, as these monkeys (Crystal and her understudy Squirt) are adorable and very fun.
“¢Â Audio Commentaries With Filmmakers
There are two separate feature-length commentaries: one with director Shawn Levy; the other with writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
“¢Â Digital Copy of Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
“¢Â DVD version of Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian widescreen feature film (2.40:1 aspect ratio)