With the original standing out as a sizable success, it's no surprise to see this "Night at the Museum" sequel, once again helmed by Shawn Levy ("Cheaper by the Dozen") and written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (better known as the stars of "Reno 911".)
The sequel opens with Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) having moved on from being a museum night watchman to an infomercial pitchman and inventor. However, he realizes that he's once again needed at the museum when the tablet that brings all of the exhibits to life is packed up and shipped off to the Smithsonian, along with many of the exhibits.
However, he finds himself up against a sizable force, lead by Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, in a terrific performance that has the actor doing an accent that sounds at times sort of like a cartoonish version of Jeremy Irons in the third "Die Hard" movie), who wants to take over the world using the power of the tablet. He's also joined by Napoleon (Alain Chabat), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) and a B & W Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). Joining the fight on Larry's side are old friends, such as Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and new friends, including Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams).
The film is still not without its issues, such as a few performances that seem a little low-key (or, in the case of Adams, a little too much after a while), but there are some significant improvements over the first film. The biggest improvement is a move from the slapstick-heavy feel of the original to more of an old-fashioned adventure. As a result, the sequel's pacing is far improved - while there are a couple of draggy moments in the middle, the sequel is much brisker. Additionally, Azaria steals the show as the villain, turning in a very, very funny performance.
"Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian" isn't without faults, but I was pleasantly surprised with the film and the improved balance between comedy and adventure that is seen in this sequel.
This Blu-Ray set offers the Blu-Ray edition of the film, a DVD edition of the film and a digital copy edition of the film.
VIDEO: "Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonian" is presented in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) by Fox. While not reference quality, this is a top-notch presentation from the studio that shows off the film quite well. Sharpness and detail are mostly excellent; while a few spots of softness were seen, the picture otherwise looked crisp and detailed, with small object detail often clearly visible.
A few concerns were spotted at times throughout the presentation - these issues included a few instances of slight noise and a couple of scenes where a bit of edge enhancement was spotted. The print - as one might expect from a new movie - looked pristine, with no specks, marks or other faults. Colors looked bright and bold, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 by Fox. As with the first film, the film's sound mix is not overly aggressive, despite some hectic sequences within the museum. Surrounds do kick in at times to deliver discrete effects and ambience, but many scenes are front-heavy in terms of audio. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: First, there's a commentary from writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. The two seem to be having an even better time chatting about the second film than the first film. Although the two writers share some good tidbits about the production, this is primarily another "improvmentary" from the two - to explain, one will riff on a certain topic and the other cracks a joke, and the two will then bounce the joke off one another and build it up. While not particularly informative, the two certainly do succeed at being entertaining throughout the track.
The other commentary comes from director Shawn Levy, who provides a more detailed overview of the production, discussing a great deal of the "behind-the-scenes" work (such as visual effects and production design) and working with the film's cast.
"Curators of Comedy" is a 27-minute "making of" documentary that offers a few good laughs (including an amusing "Mannequin" reference) and some interesting tidbits about the production (behind-the-scenes clips, FX discussion and working with the cast), but does otherwise play a bit promotional. "Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words" is a short featurette that takes a look into the historical figures seen in the film.
"Day in the Life of Director Shawn Levy" runs about 20 minutes and has the cameras follow Levy as he goes about his daily routine. "Caveman Conversations" is a goof interview with the cavemen characters from the film, while "Museum Magic" is a short look at one of the film's major FX sequences and "Phinding Pharoah" looks at the development of Azaria's character.
"Show Me the Monkey" featurettes are a trio of short clips that look at the experience of working with the primate actors on-set. "The Jonas Brothers in Cherub Bootcamp" drops in on the boy band preparing for their roles, while "Gangster Levy" is a short clip of the director on-set. "Behind-the-Scenes of The American Museum of Natural History" runs about 15 minutes and provides an informative look behind-the-scenes at the institution.
11 deleted scenes are offered (including an alternate ending), with commentary from director Shawn Levy. An 8 minute gag reel is one of the best features on the set, as Gervais, Williams and others provide some big laughs as they riff on alternate takes or mess-up lines. Gervais also has one of the most odd laughs I've ever heard.
Finally, 2 Fox Movie Channel promo featurettes and trailers for other Fox titles (such as "Aliens in the Attic" are offered.)
Also included is another disc with a digital copy and a DVD edition of the movie.
Final Thoughts: "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian" isn't without faults, but I was pleasantly surprised with the film and the improved balance between comedy and adventure that is seen in this sequel. The Blu-Ray provides very fine video and audio quality, as well as a solid set of extras.
The Film B