Stiller’s character, Larry Daley, no longer works for the museum, but has his own inventions company, Daley Devices. Bogged down by the corporate structure, he visits the Natural History museum — only to discover that the board has decided to donate most of the exhibits to the Smithsonian to make room for stale digital holograms.
Of course, this means that Larry has to venture to Washington, D.C. to save the friends he has abandoned for his businessman life. Along the way, he meets a charmingly dimwitted Gen. George Armstrong Custer, played by a mustached Bill Hader, and an adorably spunky Amelia Earheart, played by doe-eyed Amy Adams.
Together, they must fight against the evil Kahmunrah (a tunic-wearing Hank Azaria), the tyrannical older brother of New York’s Ahkmenrah, whose magical tablet has the awesome ability to animate museum exhibits by moonlight.Animated sculptures, paintings and even national monuments come alive as historical figures battle for control of Kahmunrah’s tablet, which also has the power to unleash frightening undead warriors that help the owner of the tablet achieve world domination.
Much of “Smithsonian” focuses on Larry and Amelia’s efforts to thwart Kahmunrah. Disappointingly, there is virtually none of the delightful antics of Robin Williams’ rough riding President Teddy Roosevelt and his awkward, but heartwarming romance with the majestic Sacajawea — they merely appear at the beginning and end of the movie.
Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan also reprise their roles as the tiny models Jedediah and Octavius, respectively, and please viewers with their silly, farcical interactions with the “gigantors” in Washington.
“Smithsonian” spends a little too much time trying to wow the audience with lights and noise. The sequel’s special effects are dragged out and copious, even to the point of redundancy. Although this decision may favor itself to its IMAX platform, the film could have easily shaved off at least 15 minutes of gratuitous 3D fart jokes and melodrama.
Stiller’s performance does not help either. His shtick as a frustrated jerk leaves a bad taste in the mouth because of its ill placement in a children’s movie that tries too hard to separate itself from other films. No amount of talking statues, flying rocket ships or period costumes can compensate for the truly imaginative quality that makes a great family movie.
It is also obvious that Azaria has been watching a lot of “Family Guy.” Not only does his voice of Kahmunrah sound exactly like Stewie, but Azaria also lends his voice to other minor characters in the Smithsonian — including a very large Abraham Lincoln. His performance is amusing, but too small for the big screen. In effect, his silly gesturing and preposterous accents may break the occasional chuckle, but don’t have the same effect as “Family Guy” characters have on passive viewers on the couch.
It is Adams’ enchanting Amelia Earheart that really carries the film. She’s moxie-filled, strong, and brings out a sympathy in Stiller that has not been seen since “Zoolander.” Only Adams could deliver marvel and humanity to a film that drags out stale, predictable jokes and tries to depend on recognizable guest cameos to spice up the film.
Among these cameos are “Waiting for Guffman” director Christopher Guest, who plays Ivan the Terrible, and Jonah Hill, who makes an appearance as Brandon,