Cephalopods are fun. Incongruity is even more fun. Given this logic, it follows that a movie that manages to incorporate a giant CGI octopus, Amelia Earhart, Attila the Hun, two monkeys, General Custer, and – as the writers put it – a Lincoln ex machina is going to be fun. For those seeking fun, the DVD release of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian does not disappoint.
Battle of the Smithsonian picks up several years after the original Night at the Museum concludes. Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) has finally found success with his gadgets and has become a Ron Popeil-style infomercial magnate. George Foreman has a cameo in the early infomercial scene where he is notable primarily for being George Foreman. Battle of the Smithsonian is heavily populated with historical and pop-cultural in-jokes. Despite his financial success – or presumably because of it – Larry has somewhat predictably lost his way spiritually.
As the opening sequences pan through the Museum of Natural History, the camera scans reassuringly across the familiar exhibits. The T-Rex, Teddy Roosevelt — all appear to be in their places, ready for a night of mayhem. However, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not well in the world of the museum. Gloved hands reach into the dioramas, plucking Jedediah and the other miniatures from their landscape; Dexter, the Capuchin monkey, is dragged from his tree by the same disembodied hands. Soon the friends of the original Night at the Museum are packed into wooden crates stamped “National Archives.”
Larry arrives at the museum just before sunset in a chauffeured Town Car. Ignoring the “closed for renovation” signs, he strides into the foyer for what is revealed to be a semi-regular nighttime visit. It appears, however, that success has gone to Larry’s head. He is informed by the curator (Ricky Gervais) that the museum is upgrading to digital, interactive technology, and that the old, supposedly static exhibits are bound for mothballs. The hologram Teddy Roosevelt demonstration, by the way, is a vocal masterpiece by Robin Williams who voiced the glitches and fast-forwards of the hologram without any recording manipulation.