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103 Hard-to-Endure Minutes

Movie Title: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Here’s an exercise for your downtime. Go back and re-watch a favorite cartoon of yours from your childhood, just one episode. I venture to say you’ll be amazed at the sheer level of badness of what you once thought was the coolest. Take an old favorite of mine, Thundercats.

Have you ever had the chance to go back and see one of these episodes? Oh…my…God! They’re vomit-inducing, partly because of that most annoying of all animated characters, Snarf. The creators of Snarf should be sodomized with the broken-off end of a broomstick handle.

Watching Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the sequel to Night at the Museum (2006), I kept saying to myself: “Wow! This is as cheesy as the first one!” The other thing that kept bombarding my mind was: “Who, besides sixth-graders, could possibly enjoy something like this?” For sixth-graders, this gets a pass.

Then I popped back into reality and reminded myself that the things people like are often cringe-worthy. But as far as cringe-worthy goes, this did the best it could possibly do. The actors took their parts seriously. The performances were crisp at every step.

Ben Stiller is back as Larry Daley, this time as a successful company owner. He’s made some changes in his life, but is set for a rendezvous with his ancient friends at the museum the moment he discovers that plans have been made to relocate his beloved pieces of history to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

In the impassioned process of trying to rescue Jedediah and Octavius, Larry discovers many other relics with active nightlives, many of them expectedly filling the antagonist’s role. One wonders when this started happening and how many other warehouses full of pieces of history come to life. You don’t need to reason to see a film like this—if you want to enjoy it, you can’t.

Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart and Owen Wilson as Jedediah Smith are welcomed faces, along with Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Hader as General Custer. But none of these presences take the show beyond its Maglite-wielding, thumb-twiddling, giddy-up of go-nowhere-ism.

The entire cast does as well as can be expected given the script, but for what? So that the Lincoln Memorial can get up and walk around and help the good guys win a fight? I’d have been bored out of my mind had the plot not progressed at the consistently fast jogger’s pace that it maintained.

The only funny part of the film was an appearance of Superbad’s Jonah Hill in the character of Brandon (insistently pronounced “Brundin”), a socially challenged security guard who has a run-in with Daley. The exchange is an eye-opening breath of funny-fresh air. Too bad it doesn’t last long enough.

Afterwards, your eyes sink back into your head, and from there, it’s back to the remaining hard-to-endure 103 minutes where singing, flying Cupids annoy you like three relentless mosquitoes, and a giant, thirsty Octopus fights on the side of those who give it water. And don't forget an image-conscious Ivan the Terrible who wants to set the record of his life straight.

The film’s lesson: Do what you love to do. In my case, that happens to be not watching this movie.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: Larry Daley infiltrates the Smithsonian Institute in order to rescue his beloved artifacts.
Starring: Ben Stiller “Larry Daley,” Amy Adams “Amelia Earhart,” Owen Wilson “Jedediah Smith,” Hank Azaria “Kahmunrah / The Thinker / Abe Lincoln,” Robin Williams “Teddy Roosevelt,” Christopher Guest “Ivan the Terrible,” Alain Chabat “Napoleon Bonaparte,” Steve Coogan “Octavius,” Ricky Gervais “Dr. McPhee,” Bill Hader “General George Armstrong Custer,” Jon Bernthal “Al Capone,” Patrick Gallagher “Attila the Hun”
Genre: Comedy / Adventure / Action

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