Cast your mind back to a couple of years ago, to 2006 to be precise, and to a film that saw funny-man Ben Stiller spanking a monkey, amongst other things… To the less perverse amongst you, you might recognise the film that I’m talking about isn’t There’s Something About Mary (you know which scene I’m on about) but the rather more innocent ‘kids’ film, Night At The Museum.
You remember how (and you do, those who say you haven’t seen it are lying) Larry Daley (played by Stiller), in his post as a night watchman at New York’s natural history museum, had stumbled across an ancient tablet that made all the exhibits come to life? And how those same exhibits aided him in getting some respect from his ten-year-old son, whilst preventing the criminal mishaps that were afoot?
Well, think along the same lines but on a bigger scale, and with a hoard more comedic performances and you're almost there – except this time poor Daley Junior (Nick, played by Jake Cherry) has been shunted to the side for a luurve interest in the form of Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), but I shall come to that later.
So, last time we left Larry and Nick everything was hunky-dory and their lives enriched once more – fun for the pair had been restored. Since leaving the museum, however, it seems that Larry has been making a packet out of producing and selling the latest must-have gadgets (think JML), including the all-new glow-in-the-dark torch. He still takes the time out to visit his old pals at the museum, but he’s been neglecting them lately, what with the Walmart deal hanging in the balance.
As nice as it is to have all the money rolling in, the spark has gone out of Larry’s life once more, nothing a trip to the museum can’t cure. However, it’s been such a long time since he last visited, that he’s left more than a little bemused when he shows up and almost everyone has been packed away, ready to be shipped off to the archives of the Smithsonian, Washington DC. The board of trustees have deemed the exhibits out-dated and think that what the public demands is a more high-tech approach to history.
Larry heads home deflated, confronted by Nick about why the fun has disappeared from their lives, and then... A phone rings. It’s miniature cowboy figurine, Jed (Owen Wilson), calling from the state capital – there’s trouble afoot. It seems that there’s a power struggle over the tablet, Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) is claiming the rights of ownership over his younger brother (Ahkmenrah, played by Rami Malek). The exhibits need help, and there’s only one man for the job.
Hot footing it to the Smithsonian, Larry gains access to the vastly protected archives, quickly becoming embroiled in the fight between the two camps. Kahmunrah sees Larry as the key to the mystery code that will unlock the ancient tomb, releasing the Army of the Underworld. Unfortunately, Larry doesn’t have the foggiest, but with Kahmunrah’s henchmen – Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) – on his case and Jed’s (not to mention the rest of humanity’s) life in jeopardy, he’d better solve it, quick.
This is when new addition to the fold, Amelia, comes into her own. Being the first lady to fly across the Atlantic, she sure is one hell of a gal. All-American, strong and determined to achieve what she sets out to do – whether that’s helping to defeat the bad guys or winning the affection of Larry.
This is where the film lost a few brownie points with me. The addition of the love story didn’t seem particularly necessary; the plot could have ambled along quite nicely without it. That’s not to say that Adams didn’t play the part with aplomb – she played it with great gusto – but when comedy heavyweights such as Hank Azaria and Bill Hader are wrestling in on the action, she didn’t stand a chance.
I don’t wish to dwell on the soppy side of things though, because to do that would overlook what is actually a good night (spent) at the cinema. Although, obviously, aimed at the younger generation, most of the jokes are more suited to their adult counterparts that have been dragged along for the ride.
The CGI effects have to get a particularly large thumbs-up in that respect also. This is especially with regards to the treatment paid to the artistic offerings, which sees the main protagonists at one point entering into the world of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous ‘V-J day in Times Square’, with Stiller adopting the position of the sailor – kissing the nurse.
There are some great touches to the film, of which most will bypass the kiddies, but there’s more than enough silly-ness to keep all parties intrigued, wishing for their next trip to the Natural History Museum and the next part of the franchise.