Summer Film Series – Vol. 7, No. 5: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM – BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN
August 18, 2009 at Movies 10 in Plano, Texas
I am a die-hard fan of Night at the Museum, so the decision to take another crazy ride with those living exhibits was the simplest movie decision ever. The fact that I visited Washington, D.C., once upon a time only served to make the film all the more treasured in my mind. I always enjoy settings that I’ve seen up close. Battle of the Smithsonian was meant to be pure, uninhibited fun, and I believe it fully succeeded in that endeavor. The true test of a film like this is whether I can enjoy it with my teenage nephew — who is more like me than any of the other kids in our family — so when we both found ourselves laughing more and more loudly as the film progressed, I knew Smithsonian had won our hearts. We enjoyed it even more than the first of the series, and that was quite unexpected since we were completely surprised by the first one and genuinely came to love it by the closing credits. But this second film was, by far, our favorite of the two. It was kooky, goofy, silly fun with characters we already loved and new ones who charmed us and made us laugh with gusto. We learned new facts about historical figures that led us to great conversation after the movie, and we were able to share yet another evening of mutual joy. There are very few films in theaters today that can provide the same amount of joy to a 14-year-old boy as to a 40-year-old woman without offending either one. But Battle of the Smithsonian did just that. It is pure and honest family fun, and we have no regrets.
Above all else in the film I was charmed by two specific moments: Amy Adams portraying Amelia Earhardt, and stunning visual imagery of paintings coming to life as if on a television screen while hanging in the Washington Art Museum. The paintings were all familiar works by the greatest artists of all time, and watching them come to life was a breathtaking moment for me. This is what I often see in my mind’s eye when touring art museums, but never before have I witnessed an actual representation of my thoughts as shown in this film. I must admit to a longing for such a feat to be possible, for art to come alive before my eyes. It was an extraordinary moment of film, to say the least. And Adams’s Earhardt spoke the greatest truth about it: “How can you pass up a dance with one of Degas’s girls?” Indeed! Watching Adams as the legendary aviator was equally extraordinary. She stole every moment of every scene, and she looked amazing while doing it. Adams’s portrayal was reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn at her best, and her Amelia was filled with joie de vivre that lit the screen. I know little of the real Earhardt’s personality, but I was completely enchanted by Adams’s rendition. The film could have followed only her character, and it would have been glorious.
What makes the Museum films so special and fun for my family are the characters themselves. Owen Wilson as cowboy Jedediah continues to bring the biggest smiles to me, and Hank Azaria was at his ridiculous best as an Egyptian king attempting to revive long-dead power. All of the supporting “exhibits” continue to make me laugh, and I appreciated the extra touch by the writers to take the bumbling idiocy of General Custer and redeem him by the end of the film. It was unnecessary, but it provided such a beautiful lesson for children to know that everyone has value, whether obvious to us or not. It is this kind of care that elevates these Museum films above many other “family” films. I am never offended, and I am always entertained. How I wish there were more films like this each year.
image via Rotten Tomatoes