Amy Adams in 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian'
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is a classic–a classic example of an unnecessary sequel. But if you liked the first one, you’ll probably enjoy the follow-up, S. T. Karnick writes.

Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is a textbook example of a by the numbers comedy sequel: less story, less-interesting characters, even less logic, and more gag lines and physical humor,

As in Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller plays a very ordinary man dealing with historical characters who come to life at night in the Smithsonian Institution as a result of . . . but you don’t really care about that, do you? The important thing is that it’s funny, it’s a little sentimental, it’s nice, and it’s a reasonably enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours.

Aficionados of classic Hollywood movies will enjoy Hank Azaria’s portrayal of the main villain, the ancient Egyptian Kamunrah–Azaria employs a lisp as an allusion to Boris Karloff and his character in The Mummy (1932).

Ben Stiller and Amy Adams in 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smitsonian' 

And there are a couple of interesting things about Battle of the Smithsonian. One, for some unknown reason the writers decided to concentrate on a couple of Americans most famous for their failures: Gen. George Armstrong and aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Custer, of course, led his troops into disaster at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and Earhart was a pioneering aviatrix who almost certainly died during one of her long-distance plane flights.

Rehabilitation of these reputations is the order of the day. The writers are careful to inform us that Earhart was the first female to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean solo, and they even have the protagonist (Stiller) give an impromptu pep talk to Custer (although the writers leave the audience ignorant of Custer’s positive accomplishments).

I don’t know what the purpose of this was, unlike the writers’ deification of Abraham Lincoln and a similarly reverent reference to President Obama. I suspect the rehabilitations are just the writers’ sentimental way of making sure the audience is sympathetic to two flamboyant characters from American history they wanted to use.

The motive for the laudatory references to Lincoln and Obama are just typical Hollywood socialism, of course.

There is one special and immensely appealing element in the film, however: Amy Adams as Earhart. Adams plays the lady flier as a typical tough but appealingly feminine 1920s-30s American female. Earhart’s snappy good cheer, ability to laugh in the face of danger, and "can-do" attitude remind us of what makes the United States such a great nation, and her calm courage in the face of death near the end of the film is rather inspiring and, given what we know about Earhart, probably true to the character.

That’s a piece of history vividly depicted, and it’s a truly redemptive element in a largely frivolous film.

–S. T. Karnick