Saturday, May 23, 2009

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 - Last night I dreamed that somebody loved me

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM was a sweet kids adventure film featuring Ben Stiller as a dead-beat dad security guard who bonds with his kid when the exhibits in the New York Natural History Museum come alive. Whatever charm the movie had, resided in Stiller's character Larry finding courage and friendship with the miniature cowboys, a statue of Teddy Roosevelt and a big articulated dinosaur. I also loved the fact that the exhibits were basically rubbish. They were exactly the kind of low rent exhibits you can find in many a dusty old museum filled with diaramas and stuffed heads.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 is a fundamentally different beast. Propelled by the box office success of the first installment, the movie has a bigger budget, better special effects and an even more star-filled cast. There is a certain fun in seeing the Lincoln memorial spring to life, but I couldn't help feeling, in the words of Emperor Joseph II, that they were simply too many notes. "My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect." 

Added to the mish-mash of historical figures, we also get a less interesting protagonist. The security guard has, in the intervening year, become a millionaire inventor of such crappy household objects as glow-in-the-dark torches. The message of the movie seems to be that being rich doesn't make you happy. Still, the soul-searching and character development isn't given much screen-time, and serves only to allow Larry to become such a large benefactor of the museum that he can keep his friends safe.

Despite the lack of compelling plot and over-stuffed character roster, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 isn't a complete waste of time. And that's because of three people. First, Jonah Hill has a pretty funny five minute cameo as a security guard at the Smithsonian who is full of his own petty power. Second, Steve Coogan is also good value, and reprises his role as Octavius, the miniature Roman general. Third, and best of all, Hank Azaria plays the baddie - an Egyptian Pharoah hell-bent on ruling the world - as a classic Die Hard Jeremy Irons baddie. It's pure comedy gold. This is him diss'ing Darth Vader:

"Is that you breathing? Because I can't hear myself think! There's too much going on here; you're asthmatic, you're a robot. And why the cape? Are we going to the opera? I don't think so." 

Genius. And, of course, Amy Adams is charming as Larry's love interest, Amelia Earheart.


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