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'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian'
(Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, et al / 3-Disc DVD / PG / 2009 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: History is larger than life—and twice as funny—in this monumental comedy sequel that’s “better than the original” (At the Movies)! Ben Stiller leads an all-star cast (including Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria and Robin Williams) as Larry Daley, a former night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits come to life after dark. But now Larry’s nocturnal friends are being retired to the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, luring him back for a hilarious, all-out battle against museum misfits who plan to take over the Smithsonian...and the world!

DVD: Sequels are a tough sell in the end. Sure, people will rush to see them based on their love of the first film. But for the most part, sequels tend to fall short. Fortunately such is not the case with NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE FOR THE SMITHSONIAN. Ben Stiller returns as Larry Daley, the newly hired night watchman from the initial film. The movie starts with Larry no longer working there but now a successful businessman and pitch artist selling gadgets he creates on TV like a glow in the dark flashlight.

A stop by the old museum on his way home one night leads Larry to discover that most of the pieces are about to be shipped out to the Smithsonian to make way for more up to date items. Having developed a little pull with the board, Larry tries to put a stop to it.

Before this can happen he gets a call from Jebediah (Owen Wilson) the pint sized cowboy from the first film. It seems the Dexter, the troublesome monkey we met in part one, has stolen the Egyptian tablet that enables them all to come to life. Not only that but Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), the diabolical brother of Ahkmenrah, plans on using the tablet to open the door to the Underworld and return with his warriors from the dead to take over the world.

Larry hop, skips and jumps to D.C and the Smithsonian where he has a funny encounter with a guard there. This results in his heisting a security badge from the guard and walking through the buildings in an attempt to save his friends. But, as is expected, things don't quite go as planned.

Before he can rescue them, Kahmunrah catches Larry who escapes with a little bit of help from Gen. George Armstrong Custer (Bill Hader) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). Kahmunrah then teams up with a young Al Capone (John Bernthal), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) and Napoleon (Alain Chabat). It seems to work as Kahmunrah captures Larry and then places Jebediah into an hourglass, sand pouring over him, giving Larry just that amount of time to decipher the tablet so that he can unlock the door to the Underworld.

With the help of Amelia, Larry takes off through the Smithsonian in an attempt to solve the puzzle. Along the way they encounter paintings, statues and pieces come to life as they did at the Museum of Natural History in New York. It takes a visit to the National Air and Space Museum where he remembers seeing bobble heads of Einstein that Larry discovers the answer.

A final showdown between Larry and his friends and Kahmunrah to see who will control not just the museum but the world ensues once the secret is unlocked. Figures from history around the world come to life in a battle royal, winner take all.

The thing that makes both of these films so enjoyable is the way they bring history to life. It's not just about the museum or Larry, though his life is the centerpiece of each film, but about a past we rarely think about or expect our children to know about any longer. Perhaps these films will be a way to get them interested and delve into that knowledge on their own.

Stiller turns in a great performance, never overbearing or demanding attention be paid only to him. He shares the screen willingly to the point where at one time I wondered if he was the center, only to realize he'd been there all along, just never demanding attention. A good actor knows how to share the screen and here, Stiller does an admirable job of that.

The special effects are top of the line, equaling if not surpassing the first film. The art exhibit sequence where we see pictures on the wall come to life and statues we've known for years get up and walk is hilarious. And a certain picture in this area results in a funny joke you need to watch part of the credits for to see.

This movie is the sort of movie the entire family can enjoy together. It doesn't dumb down to the adults and it isn't over the top for youngsters. It's a movie that entertains from start to finish. [MT] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary by Director Shawn Levy
Audio Commentary by Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
Gag Reel - (8:09)
12 Deleted Scenes Including Alternate Ending - (11:28)
Curators of Comedy: Behind The Scenes With Ben Stiller - (19:55)
Museum Scavenger Hunt Game
The Jonas Brothers in Cherub Bootcamp -(3:53)
Phinding Pharaoh With Hank Azaria - (4:48)
Show me the Monkey Featurettes - (17:56) "Monkey Business" - Interviews with director Shawn Levy and cast about the Crystal the monkey who is in the film and how the trainer utilizes the skills of the talented monkeys in the film. (12:52) ... "Primate Prima Donnas" - Showcasing the monkeys Crystal and Squirt and using a second monkey for the film. (6:24) "The Secret of Life of a Monkey Movie Star: Life Off Camera". A look at how a typical day is for the monkeys Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words - (6:27)
Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes of The American Museum of Natural History - (15:57)
Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest - (4:17)
Museum Magic: Entering The World Of The Photograph - (5:39)
Director 201: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy - (19:17)
Gangster Levy - (1:55)
FOX Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene - (9:35) Interview with the cast and crew and discussing the "No Go for Launch" scene
FOX Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere - (5:28) Host Tava Smiley in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian for the world premiere of "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian".
TRAILERS - Trailers for upcoming Twentieth Century Fox films