It’s hard to fathom how painful the new “Night at the Museum” sequel would have been for adults had Amy Adams not been cast as the film’s love interest.
Adams, all retro chic and curve-hugging khakis, is a burst of sunshine that breaks through the film’s formulaic clouds.
“Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” deals out exactly the kind of sequel you expect – louder, brasher and less coherent than the original.
“Musuem” opens with Larry Daley (Ben Stiller in hapless mode) thriving as a commercial pitchman for his own startup company. Life, it would seem, is good, but he misses hanging around with museum pals like Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and Jedediah the cowboy (Owen Wilson).
When he learns the exhibits are being shipped from New York to D.C. to be stored at the fabled Smithsonian museums he breaks out his trusty flashlight to spend one last night with them.
But not every exhibit is glad to see him. A power hungry Egyptian ruler, played with panache by Hank Azaria, seizes the moment to bring his minions back to existence.
It’s up to Daley, Jedediah and co. to thwart the pharoah’s plans for world domination.
“Museum” delivers enough whimsical moments in the early scenes to suggest a sequel with more on its mind that just dollars and cents. A fun cameo by George Foreman here, a novel romp through a museum photograph there and suddenly you think hack auteur Shawn Levy (“The Pink Panther”) has stumbled onto something wonderful.
Or at least tolerable for anyone over 12 years of age.
Sure enough, the spell doesn’t last long. The storyline becomes all but incoherent, supporting players like Christopher Guest are given nothing of note to do and the final half hour plays out like a series of slapstick gags stitched together at random.
But oh, that Adams. She’s a feisty, beguiling heroine, and she brings Stiller’s sleepy performance to life.
“Battle of the Smithsonian” will print money for all involved, but for a few precious moments it has more on its mind that simply commerce.
(Photo: Amy Adams plays famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.” Photo credit: Doane Gregory)