Ben Stiller‘s second foray into the world of museum artifacts springing to life is a fun, summer romp, but it suffers somewhat for the loss of the initial plot arc. There’s a lot going on, but it’s mostly in the ‘excuse to have another movie’ category, and not really much that serves a storyline.Since we last saw him, Larry Daley has moved on from his life at the museum. He’s now an infomercial company guru, who sells products like the glow-in-the-dark flashlight (you know, so you can find it), and he’s apparently quite wealthy. He visits the old boys once in a while, who still come to life at night, but he just doesn’t make it much these days. As our story begins, he finds that the museum is closed for renovations, and those renovations include getting rid of most of the exhibits.They’re being moved to storage in the National Archive below The Smithsonian, and though Larry tries to stop it, they’re boxed up and sent off just the same. Then Larry gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson‘s wee cowboy character), and it seems as though that rascally monkey stole the Egyptian tablet responsible for bringing everything to life, and now the entire archives are going wild. Worse, we’ve run into Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), and he wants the tablet so he can use it to take over the world.Larry flies to D.C. as quick as he can, and as soon as he finds a way into the restricted archives, we’re off and running. We quickly run into Kahmunrah, who is fascinated by the fact that he’s come Baaaccckkk to Liifffeeee!!! Our initial chase teams Larry up with newcomers to the series General Custer (Bill Hader) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). On the flip side, Kahmunrah soon enlists the aid of Ivan the Terrible (a brilliant Christopher Guest), Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), and Napoleon (Alain Chabat). Our plot is a frantic dash to open a doorway to the underworld, or to prevent same, and to wander as much of The Smithsonian as possible in order to throw around gimmicky tricks.
Whatever flaws it may have from a very serious film critic perspective (and there are a lot), the movie is a family film gold mine. Not only is the movie really quite fun and filled with laughable moments, it throws out a lot of interesting information about history, and presents a unique vision of, “See, this is why museums are cool.” It’s been a while since I heard an audience laugh through so much of movie’s runtime, and my son (8) would walk to The Smithsonian right now if I let him.
You have to go into this with a very light frame of mind, but it’s a sequel, and you knew what you were getting into on that score. Weird pacing, and a misguided focus on gags vs. storyline, among other things, make it impossible to give this one a high rating, but if you’ve got the right age group in tow or just want to let go to sheer escapism, your money is well spent here.