Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 12:27 pm | Fair 72º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’

The sequel to a film about a natural history museum coming alive at night is enjoyable

2 Stars — Entertaining

The sequel to the original Night at the Museum is entertaining cinema, but the novelty of the idea that the exhibits of a natural history museum come to life at night is wearing thin.

To make a second comedy with the same premise results in a cute film with jokes that seem strangely familiar. The exception is the addition of an engaging love interest for the star of the films, Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), in Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). Other new characters in the film add interest, including the Jonas Brothers as singing cherubs.

Shawn Levy directed both films, and the team of Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon have written a well-paced and even funnier script this time.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian begins the story with Larry having left his position as night watchman two years earlier to cash in on the inventions he created to survive there. What soon becomes clear is that the joy has left his life as well. Even when he is on the verge of enjoying great financial success, Larry is apathetic. It is his reconnection to the museum to recover his purpose and joy that is the underlying theme of the film.

When Larry discovers that his beloved friends are being replaced by electronic and interactive displays and destined for storage at the Smithsonian, he is helpless to stop the plan. But when Jedediah Smith (Owen Wilson) calls him pleading for his help, he responds and finds his joy and his “moxie” once more.

The villain of this tale is Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who has ambitions to control the world. We won’t spoil the tale by explaining how he intends to do that, but the battle between good and evil involves beings of all sizes and races and places of history.

The comedy of the film is varied, from the literal slap-fest of man and monkey to the lisping mockery of Darth Vader (Thomas Morley) by Kahmunrah. The use of color is also mixed as the black and white mobsters of Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) join the monocolored animated statues of The Thinker and a white marble Lincoln (both voiced by Azaria) along with the colorful costumes of Napoleon’s (Alain Chabat) soldiers.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian communicates simple, positive messages: Love and joy are possible when we follow our hearts, good wins over evil because loyalty and honesty are more powerful, and “the secret of happiness is doing what you love with people you love.” Those are messages with which we can agree.


» The thought that humans who once lived could come alive again is different from thinking that a wax figure or a stone statue can live. Does that fact bother you about the film? Why or why not?

» The relationship that develops between Larry and Amelia is fueled by the tension of the night. Have you ever experienced a relationship that moved forward artificially by a shared tense experience? Did the relationship last after the experience was over?

» The fact that the warriors of the underworld lack the weapons and power to stop the forces of good is a hopeful message. Do you believe this message to be true? Is good able to stop evil?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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