If this movie were a museum exhibit — you know, a hologram where kids can watch paintings and sculptures come to life — it'd be great fun for about five or 10 minutes. But Night At the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian drags on for a punishing 104 minutes. The money shots of the living tableau are padded with jokes that feel embalmed before the actors get them out of their mouths. The first film in the series, 2006's plain old Night At the Museum, was even four minutes longer so I guess I shouldn't complain. But come on. Adults who see this movie unaccompanied by a child should sign up pronto for therapy with Gabriel Byrne on In Treatment. Ben Stiller, my satiric comic hero last summer in Tropic Thunder, has the dull-edged look of a man taking a paycheck job in a downsized economy. I swear I could see his ass dragging.
As Larry Daley, the divorced dad who worked as a night guard last time at New York's Museum of Natural History, Stiller is too smart not to know that he's drowning in mainstream quicksand. But here's Larry again, a newly minted inventor, heading to the Smithsonian in D.C. to rescue his waxworks pals from being stored away in crates. Good actors from the first film (Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams) return for another go, and welcome such newcomers as Hank Azaria as an Egyptian ruler bent on evil and Amy Adams as an Amelia Earhart aviatrix bent on being relentlessly, mercilessly perky. There is one way to survive this onslaught of bland from director Shawn Levy and screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Consider your own museum sleepover.