It’s rare when a sequel manages to surpass the original, but that is the case with “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”
This followup to the 2006 smash takes all the elements that worked in that film and adds some new layers that makes this even more charming and family friendly.
“Museum” begins two years after the original, with former security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) now a successful inventor, selling gadgets like the glow-in-the-dark flashlight.
But Larry’s past is about to catch up with him when he learns that his former employer, the American Museum of Natural History, is about to be closed for renovations that include shipping several exhibits to the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institute.
The next night, Larry gets a call from miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) informing him that the exhibits are under attack by an Egyptian pharaoh named Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria).
With his friends in trouble, Larry heads to Washington determined to make things right and recover the mysterious tablet responsible for bringing the exhibits to life from the evil pharaoh’s grasp.
Fans of the original will be happy to see plenty of familiar faces including Wilson, Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt and Ricky Gervais as the curator of the Museum of Natural History.
Stiller is also very good, the perfect counter to all the madness around him.
But what makes “Smithsonian” stand out from its predecessor is the addition of several cast members - most notably Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.
Adams’ Earhart is a plucky and vibrant character who reminded me a lot of her work in another family film “Enchanted,” where she really made you believe she was a naive fairy tale princess.
When she’s on the screen, “Smithsonian” soars. But even when she isn’t, there are enough moments that include Wilson, Azaria and Bill Hader’s clueless General Custer that make this a film that is fun for the whole family.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “He’s Just Not That Into You” (B-), a pretty standard romantic comedy that is anchored by an above standard performance.
There are plenty of reasons to dismiss the film - some of the plot threads are a little too convenient and the characters are all part of that fantasy world where everyone is financially successful and beautiful.
Still, the film won me over, thanks in large part to actress Ginnifer Goodwin. Despite the presence of more well-known stars like Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson, Goodwin shines in an extremely charming breakout role.
Goodwin’s character Gigi is at the center of a film that intertwines several story arcs dealing with the highs and lows of romance.
Gigi is a neurotic young lady, desperately seeking Mr. Right, who strikes up a friendship with a bar owner (Justin Long), who’s willing to give her an inside look at how to read her potential boyfriends.
“Not That Into You” has several other subplots - including a married man (Bradley Cooper) who becomes infatuated with a young singer (Johansson) he meets in a supermarket, a couple (Affleck and Aniston) who have lived together for years, but have yet to take the next step to marriage, and a successful real estate agent (Kevin Connolly), who wants to be more than friends with the young singer.
Co-writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein pack plenty of romantic comedy cliches in their script, and Ken Kwapis pulls out plenty of familiar tricks in his two-hour film.
There are moments where the filmmakers are clearly manipulating their audience, but judging from the screening I attended, it worked.
Then there are moments that are quite smart, most involving Goodwin, that help elevate the material slightly.
I’m not sure the good easily outweighs the bad, but it’s close enough that I eventually gave in and found myself having a good time.
“He’s Just Not That Into You” is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, whose own night at the museum was too sordid and scary an affair to discuss in a family newspaper, can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.