DVDizzy.com | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Blu-ray & DVD Review

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) movie poster Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Theatrical Release: May 22, 2009 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Shawn Levy / Writers: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

Cast: Ben Stiller (Larry Daley), Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart), Owen Wilson (Jedediah Smith), Hank Azaria (Kahmunrah, voice of The Thinker, voice of Abe Lincoln), Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), Christopher Guest (Ivan the Terrible), Alain Chabat (Napoleon Bonaparte), Steve Coogan (Octavius), Ricky Gervais (Dr. McPhee), Bill Hader (General George Armstrong Custer), Jon Bernthal (Al Capone), Patrick Gallagher (Attila the Hun), Jake Cherry (Nicky Daley), Rami Malek (Ahkmenrah), Mizuo Peck (Sacajawea), Jay Baruchel (Sailor Joey Motorola), Mindy Kaling (Docent), Keith Powell (Tuskegee Airman #1), Craig Robinson (Tuskegee Airman #2), Clint Howard (Air and Space Mission Control Tech #1), George Foreman (Himself), Kevin Jonas (Cherub #1), Joe Jonas (Cherub #2), Nick Jonas (Cherub #3), Brad Garrett (voice of Easter Island Head), Eugene Levy (voice of Albert Einsteins), Jonah Hill (Brundon the Security Guard - uncredited), Thomas Lennon (Wilbur Wright - uncredited), Robert Ben Garant (Orville Wright - uncredited), Ed Helms (Assistant - uncredited)

Buy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • 1-Disc DVD • Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack


By Kelvin Cedeno

When a film grosses $250 million domestically, a sequel is pretty much a given. So was the case with Night at the Museum. The 2006 hit certainly lent itself to further installments thanks to the seemingly endless array of historical figures that could make appearances.
The concept of museum exhibits coming alive after dark pretty much markets itself, and casting well-known actors in the roles makes it even easier. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is fully aware of all these facts and exploits them even more than its predecessor did.

Set two years after the original, this outing catches up with night guard/inventor Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) as his friends from New York's American Museum of Natural History are relocated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. When Dexter the monkey brings the Tablet of Ahkmenrah with him on the move, it brings to life the exhibits at the Smithsonian, including the evil Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria). Kahmunrah intends to use the Tablet to summon his army and take over the world alongside other historic tyrants such as Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat), and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). With the help of the free-spirited Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), Larry must protect both the Tablet and his friends.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) consult a Teddy Roosevelt bust for help in deciphering the Tablet of Ahkmenrah. Larry (Ben Stiller) finds himself surrounded by Egyptians and face-to-face with a lisping Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria).

Battle of the Smithsonian is basically more of the same, only on a grander scale. There are strengths and weaknesses to that. On the plus side, the production design and special effects are incredible. This is a very handsome-looking film crammed with convincing effects and detail. There's often so much to look at that repeated viewings are required to take in everything. On the negative side, it seems like, as before, the filmmakers aren't really sure of what to do with the eclectic cast of characters. One would think that the possibilities would be endless for such a diverse range of historical figures. Instead, the filmmakers usually take a clichιd, safe approach that doesn't tap into the full potential.

The elements exclusive to this sequel are decidedly mixed. The standouts are Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart and Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah. Adams is perhaps the only cast member besides Ben Stiller who approaches her character as a person and not a caricature. She's a fun and perky presence who gives the film its emotional backbone, greatly uplifting any sequence she's in. That isn't to say playing a cartoonish role is necessarily bad, especially when Azaria does so well with his villain, delightfully chewing the scenery while still providing some of the picture's subtler humor. Regrettably, other actors new to the franchise like Christopher Guest and Bill Hader (playing a buffoonish General Custer) are given very little to do. It isn't a great concern for this film, but for those familiar with the actors' work, the lack of substance either in plot or laugh-out-loud comedy is glaring.

The Abraham Lincoln sculpture (voiced by Hank Azaria) marvels at Larry's (Ben Stiller) relatively miniscule height. Miniature figurines Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan) aren't thrilled at being shipped to the Smithsonian Institute.

Also, the logic of this world seems awfully half-baked. Some characters are fully aware that they're waxworks brought to life while others genuinely believe they're the real life people they portray. Among the latter, it's unclear as to how much they really know. Amelia Earhart is aware that she's famous for getting lost at the end of her life and is seemingly confused as to her current whereabouts. Custer likewise knows of his great failure at the Battle of Little Big Horn yet is perfectly aware of his surroundings. In another instance, it is revealed that Tablet of Ahkmenrah can also make artwork inhabitable. The heroes only think of using this to their advantage on one occasion, and it's never explained whether the artwork residents can step into the real world. It's this sort of lack of cohesion that makes the fantasy a bit troubling.

The statements above may make the second Night at the Museum sound like a bad film. It really isn't. It's a mildly entertaining diversion with plenty of eye candy and a couple of standout performances. When one takes into account all of the talent and interesting ideas in play, however, light amusement and shaky plotting become greater issues. So long as one takes the film for what it is rather than what it could be, the experience is a pleasant, if not very memorable, one.

Buy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

BD: 2.35:1 Widescreen, 5.1 DTS-HD (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (SPA, FRE, POR)
DVD: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (ENG), Dolby Surround (FRE, SPA)
BD Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese; DVD: English, Spanish
Release Date: December 1, 2009
Three single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 DVD-9, 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase with Shiny Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Single-Disc DVD and on Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is presented only in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray's image is expectedly flawless with bold colors, fine detail, and a clean presentation devoid of print and digital flaws. There's even fine film grain present (which isn't distracting) indicating that this hasn't been digitally scrubbed the way other Fox titles notoriously have. There are no qualms to be had with this outstanding transfer.

The DTS-HD 5.1 track also is impressive. An adventure film of this sort perfectly shows off the surrounds, particularly with all of the manic background mayhem that ensues. Speech is clear and concise, the musical score is rich without drawing too much attention to itself, and the many effects utilize the sound field in an immersive manner. Like the image, the soundtrack excels.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, & PACKAGING

Battle of the Smithsonian's Blu-ray holds a very nice collection of supplements (all in HD), starting with an audio commentary by Director Shawn Levy. Single participant commentaries frequently miss the mark, but Levy hits it. As soon as the track begins, he dives right into his thoughts and rarely lets up until the feature is over. The actors and their constant veering from the script are the main focuses, but story and technical elements are also discussed in this lively track.

Screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon supply a second commentary. Again, the comments come at a rapid-fire pace with barely any awkward pauses. The difference is that this one provides more entertainment than information as the two "Reno 911!" writers poke fun at their creation and at the cast and crew. It's not as enlightening as Levy's, but it does still entertain.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a Museum Scavenger Hunt Game. Like the Carfinder game on Cars, this activity asks that the player search the film for items indicated on-screen. The side of the screen presents three items, each pertaining to a different category, and a corresponding color key on the remote must be pressed when the item appears during the feature. The side items change regularly as the film progresses, requiring the viewer/player to pay close attention. It's not as overwhelming as the one on Cars, but it can still be challenging and is more fun than most set-top games.

Ben Stiller and director Shawn Levy compare this sequel to its predecessor and how they wanted to approach this differently in "Curators of Comedy." "Phinding Pharaoh" features Hank Azaria's screen tests and his many vocal experiments with the character.

"Curators of Comedy: Behind-the-Scenes of Night at the Museum 2" (27:52) is the set's central, all-encompassing featurette. At first it threatens to be little more than EPK material as the cast and director all praise each other with a few tongue-in-cheek nudges. Eventually, the piece becomes meatier as it explores the sets and props and compares them to the real Natural History Museum and Smithsonian.
For the most part, though, this focuses on the actors and, while enjoyable, doesn't reveal a great deal about the production.

"Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words" (6:28) features improvisations from actors Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Bill Hader, and Jon Bernthal all in character. Each reflects a bit on his infamous historical reputation but spends more time gossiping about the other characters. It's not tremendously funny, but it's a cute feature.

The strongest extra on the disc is "Directing 201: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy" (19:18). This offers a candid look at a typical day of work for Levy. We follow him on his morning routines, green screen sound stages, the editing room, and everything in-between. It makes one appreciate all the hard work that goes into filmmaking and is surprisingly blunt and honest. The only detriment is that it's too short; it could've easily have been twice as long and enlightening.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is "Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest" (4:18), certainly the worst feature on this disc and one of the worst ever created, period. The three Neanderthals, Kerry van der Griend, Matthew Harrison, and Rick Dobran, all answer questions relating to both the film and their personal lives. Because the whole thing is presented in-character ΰ la "Historical Confessions", we get approximately four minutes of non-stop grunting and hooting. It's an obnoxious endurance exercise.

"Museum Magic: Entering the World of the Photograph" (5:41) focuses on the sequence where Larry and Amelia end up in the V–J day in Times Square photograph. The attention to detail and accuracy is highlighted as is the way the scene works from a storytelling point of view. It's brief, but it packs in quite a bit of information about one of the better sequences in the picture.

"Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes of the American Museum of Natural History" (15:58) is better suited for the first film, as the Manhattan museum only has a bookend presence in the sequel. Nonetheless, the solid featurette provides an interesting examination of the different exhibits offered there. Various employees explain their duties, including those of an actual night guard.

"Phinding Pharaoh" (4:50) goes through various screen tests of Hank Azaria as Kahmunrah. In each one, he approaches the character with a distinctly different voice. These range from posh British and Cockney to Western and Boris Karloff (the last of which was what finally stuck). Comments from Azaria and director Shawn Levy discuss why certain approaches were thrown out, and it all makes for a fascinating watch.

Director Shawn Levy berates Joe Jonas for his attitude and sends him to the corner in "Cherub Boot Camp." The three war lords  -- Al Capone, Napoleon, Ivan the Terrible -- are exposed to the wonders of Muzak while riding an elevator in this deleted scene.

Three "Show Me the Monkey Featurettes" (17:59) tell us about capuchin monkeys Crystal and Squirt, both of whom play Dexter and Able. "Monkey Business" is the most serious of the three, showing how the two primates are trained to perform their stunts. "Primate Prima Donnas" has cast members share their thoughts on the monkeys as if they were ego-centric co-stars. Finally, "The Secret Life of a Monkey Movie Star: Life Off Camera" is another cutesy look at an average day at home for Crystal and Squirt.

"The Jonas Brothers in Cherub Boot Camp" (3:52) reveals how much of a taskmaster Shawn Levy is. The Jonas Brothers, who only maintain a vocal presence in the film, are forced by Levy to fully immerse themselves into their characters and endure embarrassing tasks such as prancing about while wearing wings. It's a joke featurette but an amusing one regardless.

Twelve deleted scenes (26:43) feature a mix of full-fledged deletions and extensions of existing scenes. Most of these feature quite a bit of improvising by the actors and end up feeling very self-serving, particularly the full version of Jonah Hill's cameo. Cutting all of these was wise, though an alternate ending featuring some cast members from the first film does go missed. Shawn Levy provides his commentary over all the scenes and admits to trimming them down to keep the scenes more focused.

"Gangster Levy" (1:56) is a quick peek at Levy's second cameo in the film that, for the most part, ended up on the cutting room floor. The complete cameo, which has him re-enacting a mob shootout for a video playing at Al Capone's exhibit, is shown here with comments by Levy. It's fun to see.

The gag reel's best moments feature Ricky Gervais repeatedly breaking character and erupting in his signature laughter. The DVD main menu zooms into a portrait of painted characters coming towards the camera, starting with our hero Larry.

A gag reel (8:10) follows, and this one is better than others of its kind thanks to the quick-wittedness of the actors. Lots of hilarious improvisations and reactions to flubbed lines are shown. If nothing else, one can't help but find the criminally underused Ricky Gervais' laughter infectious.

For a peek at how the Space and Aircraft sequence was created, there's "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene" (9:36). Cast and crew weigh in on the filming of the ambitious set piece, some of which was actually done on location.
Unlike the digital cable channel's other "Making a Scene" specials, this one concentrates less on the technical side and more on the artistry of the acting and writing. As such, it's less dry than usual while still being informative.

Finally, "Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere" (5:29) shows the actors arriving on the red carpet at the London premiere of the film. Each briefly talks about his character and the experience of making the picture. It's promotional, to be sure, but it's nice to have features like this as a means of closure to the supplements.

The disc opens with trailers for Avatar, Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Flicka 2. A "Trailers" section in the supplements (which doesn't contain any for the feature itself) holds additional ads for Aliens in the Attic, Fame, Amelia, (500) Days of Summer, Post Grad, All About Steve, and "Glee".

Part of a growing trend for family movies, the Blu-ray is accompanied by a DVD. It contains both commentaries, "Curators of Comedy", "Phinding Pharaoh", "The Jonas Brothers in Cherub Boot Camp", the deleted scenes, and the gag reel. A digital copy disc is also included for portable viewing.

The nicely-designed main menus for both the Blu-ray and DVD start with a live-action pan through the museum that segues into canvas portraits of the cast zooming by. The submenus on the DVD are static, containing only publicity shots of the characters.

All three discs come in a standard blue keepcase with an interior hinge that holds the BD and DVD discs. Leaflets hold the digital copy activation code and advertise Delta Vacations, 20th Century Fox applications, the Night at the Museum website, and Aliens in the Attic. The case is housed in a shiny cardboard slipcover.

The Smithsonian residents, both new and old, know how to make an entrance. Dr. McPhee and Larry take a look at the high-tech new interactive exhibit featuring a holographic Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is not a poor film, but it's not a particularly great one. With so many talented actors in tow and delightful concepts to mine, being an above average feature comes as a harsher disappointment than usual. There's little to complain about with the Blu-ray, however. The image and sound are fantastic, and while the supplements are hit or miss, they're usually quite useful. Those who loved the first film will likely embrace this one in a similar manner. For those who enjoy light fantasy, there's enough charm here to merit a rental so long as expectations are kept in check.

Buy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo / 1-Disc DVD / Two-Disc Monkey Mischief DVD Pack

Buy from Amazon.com

Report: Night at the Wax Museum

To mark the DVD and Blu-ray debut of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Fox hosted an overnight press event at Madame Tussauds New York. It wasn't the Smithsonian or the nearby Museum of Natural History, but the Times Square wax museum was nonetheless a relevant locale for what sounds like it was a fun fifteen hours. Fifty local children and a number of media outlets brought sleeping bags and slept among lifelike wax statues of such world leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, and Nelson Mandela.

Guests learned about how wax figures are created, enjoyed a scavenger hunt, and made an interesting souvenir -- a wax sculpture of their hands. In the morning, actress Mizuo Peck (Sacajawea in the NATM films) and Crystal the Capuchin Monkey who plays Dexter showed up as three relevant new wax likenesses were unveiled: Amelia Earhart, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, and President Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend this event as planned, but we're happy to share these photographs provided to us:

Crystal the capuchin monkey holds up one of the ceremonial first DVD copies of "Night at the Museum 2" by the newly-unveiled wax statues of Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Albert Einstein. As wax renderings of world leaders stand watching, children and adults get tucked into sleeping bags for a night at the museum.

New York kids and actress Mizuo Peck pet and admire Crystal the monkey while Abraham Lincoln stoically looks on. Dressed in complimentary "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" T-shirts, young guests make wax molds of their hands with the assistance of a Madame Tussauds NY employee.

Related Reviews:
New: G-Force • Julie & Julia • World's Greatest Dad • Santa Buddies • Angels & Demons • Four Christmases
Summer 2009 Comedies: Up • Year One • The Proposal • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs • Bruno • Funny People
Night at the Museum • Bedtime Stories • Voyagers!: The Complete Series • 17 Again • I Love You, Man
Written by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant: Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season • Herbie: Fully Loaded • The Pacifier • Balls of Fury
Starring Ben Stiller: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa • Tropic Thunder • The Heartbreak Kid | Starring Amy Adams: Enchanted • Doubt • Underdog

Featuring Night at the Museum Actors:
Steve Coogan: Around the World in 80 Days | Hank Azaria: Run Fatboy Run | Robin Williams: Aladdin • Mrs. Doubtfire • License to Wed
Owen Wilson: Cars (Ultimate Cars Gift Pack) • Drillbit Taylor | Ricky Gervais: Ghost Town | Bill Hader: Adventureland • Superbad

DVDizzy.com | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Search This Site:

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed December 8, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 Twentieth Century Fox, 21 Laps Productions, 1492 Pictures, and Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.