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Back at the Museum: Night at the Museum ***

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is far too entertaining to be a sequel. It’s better than the original and one of the funniest movies to hit theaters in months. This, mainly due to the performances but the writing isn’t half-bad, especially when one imagines it is not a routine paycheck but rather something more along the lines of the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road movies. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson almost never go wrong, and when you add in Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, and Jonah Hill you have an ensemble that runs like a well oiled machine.Museum is really just another chance to get Ben Stiller (as Larry Daley) back in the museum where all of the funny artifacts come to life via an ancient tablet. This time there is some silly and pointless plot that takes all of the artifacts and fossils to Washington, DC. In short, they needed another museum and it might as well be the Smithsonian where there are so many great sight gags to riff off of. And riff they do. It’s wonderful to see D.C. in all of its glory, particularly the Lincoln memorial. Bringing Lincoln back to life was a stroke of genius. A tall man anyway, Lincoln comes off as an unstoppable force and let it be known that there is zero chance that statue gets up and walks and no person or security guard sees it. Just saying.Just when the plot starts to seem too by rote, the actors pause the action to work through a bit of good comedy and for that Night at the Museum is one earned laugh after another. Particularly fabulous is Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart, a gal up for adventure who speaks like a screwball comedy starlet. Her twinkling eyes and springing body are what is keeping Adams’ career on an endless high note She woos the Ben Stiller character and a romance blooms. It’s great the plot keeps moving quickly otherwise one’s thoughts might dwell on the strangeness of this man developing a crush on one of the make-believe things that come to life.The film, in fact, leaves no room for reality. For instance, there are security cameras everywhere in DC, particularly around the archives and yes, even at night. It is a heavily guarded city, overly so. There is virtually no chance a man could do that much damage and no one would ever hear about it. But then again, dino bones don’t come to life and ancient pharaohs don’t awaken with plans to rule the world.Check your sense of realism at the door and perhaps you might enjoy the laughs and fairly impressive set pieces. It’s especially nice to see them crawl into a famous painting or two. Some of the most famous ones would be a delight to crawl into. The film doesn’t exploit this as much as it could have. It was probably the most interesting thing in the film other than the great performances of Adams, Azaria and Stiller.The lucrative franchise beat Terminator Salvation, one of the predicted blockbusters of the Memorial Day Weekend. That means there are going to be many more nights in the museum, whichever museum that looks great on film.

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