I suppose it was inescapable, really. The first Night At The Museum entry was a bit of a surprise. Not so much of a “we didn’t anticipate another Ben Stiller film (with an obligatory appearance by Owen Wilson)” kind of surprise, but rather in the more enlightening “a Ben Stiller film actually inspired kids to get up off of their lazy text-messaging asses and go to real life museums to learn” sort of way. Sure, the first film had that patented Ben Stiller form of comedy (e.g. people bickering in a weird, mumbling, passive-aggressive manner), but it was still a hit with parents and them young’uns alike. And so, three years after the surprise hit Night At The Museum hit theaters, Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian thrust itself upon us.
Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has come a long way since the events depicted in the first film. He has started a very lucrative industry, wherein he sells innovative devices such as a glow-in-the-dark flashlight via television infomercials (and the uneasy reminiscing about Stiller’s Envy begins). But, being filthy stinking rich has left Larry feeling a bit hollow on the inside, and he longs to rekindle his friendship with the exhibits in the museum (who came to life during the night by a magical ancient tablet thingy). Stopping in one day, Larry learns from his old boss, Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), that a majority of the exhibits are being transferred to the Smithsonian — which means they will effectively lose their nocturnal lives (or something to that effect). Basically, it’s a rather flimsy and quickly-rushed-through preface in order to set up the main premise of the film: the exhibits of the Smithsonian coming to life and wreaking havoc.
In Washington D.C., Larry steals the ID card of a moronic security guard (a cameo by Jonah Hill results in more weird, mumbling, passive-aggressive bickering) and effectively breaks into the Smithsonian (you’ll have to suspend any disbelief for this film, so let’s just get that out of the way now) to see his pals. Unfortunately, there’s a new villain in town: an evil Egyptian ruler named Kahmunrah (played by Hank Azaria, who gives us his best lisping Boris Karloff impersonation), and he’s intent on taking over the world. Kahmunrah recruits such exhibits as a young Al Capone, Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat), and Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) to assist him, all the while keeping Larry‘s old friends imprisoned. And so, in order to save his pals (and possibly, the world), Larry reluctantly teams up with the spunky Amelia Earhart (brought to life by actress Amy Adams).