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November 25, 2009
Night at the Museum 2 Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
9/4/200910/11/2009FoxShawn Levy
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGBen Stiller

THE MOVIE
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Ben Stiller and Amy Adams.

When the first Night at the Museum managed to gross an astonishing $US574 million around the globe it was inevitable that a sequel would be made, and Night at the Museum 2 (or Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian as it is called in America) is the result. This movie sees the return of almost the entire original cast, and throws in a couple of new characters as well.

The Museum of Natural History is under construction, so the exhibits are packed up and put into storage at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Larry Daley (Stiller) has given up his security-guard career to run Daley Devices, a company specializing in unusual inventions. When Larry gets a frantic call from Jedediah (Wilson) explaining that the Tablet of Ahkmenrah – the artifact that brings the exhibits to life – has been stolen and Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Azaria) is up to no good, Larry and his son (Jake Cherry) head to Washington. With help from his old friends and some new ones, Larry must take down Kahmunrah and save the day.

After seeing this movie a couple of times now we have to admit that we were left a little disappointed with the end result of this movie. It has a bit more action and certainly more characters then first, but it also lacks that sense of wonder and charm that came with the original outing. Sadly, most of the characters from the first movie have limited appearances given that most have been packed up for storage in the Smithsonian, while others including T-Rex, Robin Williams' Teddy Roosevelt and Ricky Gervais' curator remain in the old museum and are limited to the opening and closing of the film.

There are other disappointments too. Jonah Hill (Superbad) makes an appearance as a guard at the Smithsonian, but his role is limited to a confusing couple of minutes which is only in place for Larry to steal his ID tag. Surely he could, and should, have been given more screen time. Perhaps as another character attempting to impede Larry's quest, or perhaps someone that helps him along the way.

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Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible and Napoleon Bonaparte.
While the ending of the first movie made it virtually impossible to include them, I really did miss the three old security guards played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs. They are classic, legendary, actors and I just felt that this movie missed their extra spark. Likewise Larry's ex-wife (played by Kim Raver) is missing, as is Larry's love interest from the first movie. Still, given this film takes place a few years later it could have only bogged down the storyline and can be easily explained away by the passing of time.

But surely there has to be some good with this movie? Well yes, we loved the way Larry and Amelia interact with, and jump in and out of, the historical paintings and pictures. It's so well done. Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan have returned and are great as the miniatures yet again while there's also a great scene with a certain Star Wars character - we won't spoil it. We also really enjoyed how Al Capone's character appears in Black and White throughout the movie in order to match the video footage and character in the museum. Some of the dialogue between Kahmunrah, Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible and Napoleon Bonaparte is hilarious. The discussion about the dress and the request to change "Ivan the Terrible" to "Ivan the Awesome" are fantastic.

In terms of new actors to this movie the biggest role goes to Amy Adams (Enchanted) as Amelia Earhart. She plays this role superbly with a sexy sassiness that is exactly what you may have expected from her real-life counterpart. We also have to mention Hank Azaria who plays the evil Kahmunrah (Azaria) perfectly with a hilarious lispy voice.

Certainly bigger in scale, stunts, visual effects and characters this sequel was a bit flat to us. It lacked the charm and sense of awe of the first movie. Still Night at the Museum 2 has its moments and it's one which the entire family can enjoy together.

VIDEO
Night at the Museum 2 is presented on Blu-Ray at the formats typical 1080p resolution and is framed at 2.35:1 which matches the theatrical presentation. Video has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and the image is sharp and fairly clean for the most part. The bitrate constantly hovers above the 20Mbps mark, and pushes well above that in the more action based scenes.

We did, however, notice a few very minor issues. As a whole we felt that the image was a little too hot with skin tones looking a little too red in places, as well as many of the locations. We also noticed some colour banding and compression in places. Have a look as the camera pans down to the city at the 8:45 - 8:52 mark. On the right hand side of the image you will notice a very unnatural blue blob appearing filling about half the height of the image. There are other, similar instances. There are also scenes which look a little out of focus (take one at 9:35 when Ben Stiller is walking across the screen as an example).

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Yep, that damn monkey is back too!
Don't get me wrong, the Blu-Ray disc is certainly superior to the DVD release in terms of sharpness and vibrancy, but its not without some minor issues.

AUDIO
The primary audio track on this Blu-Ray release is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz). One thing is certain, this is a very impressive, lively presentation with great use of surround sound channels and subtle, and often not so subtle, effects also having an impact. Alan Silvestri has returned to compose the music, and it is quite lively and enjoyable.

Other tracks on this disc include an English Descriptive Audio which is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps. Besides that this Blu-Ray includes French, Italian, and Russian DTS 5.1 tracks encoded at 768kbps. Brief samples didn't show any issues with each sounding fairly lively. Beyond that look for a Magyar and something else we can't determine encoded at Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. Subtitles are provided for over a dozen languages for the feature film including English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as well as the two commentary tracks.

EXTRAS
Upon starting this disc you will be presented with trailers for Ice Age 3 (2:16), Aliens in the Attic (2:07) and Amelia (1:50). Fortunately you can skip them but strangely they aren't available through the Special Features section on the main menu. Anyway onto the other extras then...

Commentary by Director Shawn Levy: This audio commentary is fairly non-stop with plenty of interesting details provided about the production, filming and motivations behind certain film elements. It's not the best commentary ever, but it's fairly decent.

Commentary by Writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon: It would have been good to merge this commentary with the first to provide a more condense track, but the writers still manage to impart some information despite occasionally heading off-track with some, admittedly often amusing, banter.

Scavenger Hunt Mode: Available in Easy or Hard modes this is a Java based trivia style game which sees you hunting objects through the movie and pressing the correct button on your remote when required (which doesn't translate well to the PS3 remote control we must add. Still it's fun if you like these sort of, well, scavenger hunts.

The Curators of Comedy: Behind-the-scenes of Night at the Museum 2 (27:52/HD): This is actually a fairly decent look at the making of this movie including plenty of interviews with cast and crew which covers the motivations behind the sequel, the filming, and the characters. There's a little too much replaying on scenes from the movie, but otherwise this is watchable.

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Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt.
Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words (6:29/HD): The characters that come to life in the movie detail their history and try to prove why they are superior to the other historic figures.

Directing 201: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy (19:19/HD): For me, this was the most interesting featurette as it gives you a great idea about what a director does on a daily basis in a movie. It's sprinkled with some comedic and unnecessary moments, but is very entertaining and worth your time.

Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest (4:18/HD): An amusing little scene where the cavemen actors are interviewed in "caveman talk".

Museum Magic: Entering the world of the Photograph (5:41/HD): Although it's a bit brief it's a good little look into the creation of the end of World War II celebrations featured in the movie.

Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-scenes of the American Museum of Natural History (15:58/HD): This featurette looks at the real American Museum of Natural History. It's quite interesting in that we see a lot of work that takes place out of the public eye.

Phinding Pharaoh (4:50/HD): This featurette looks at the various styles of voices and accents tested for his role in the movie.

Primate Prima Donnas (6:27/HD): What's funnier then a monkey actor? We would have to say not much really. This featurette covers the monkeys acting in the movie. Damn, they're cute...

The Jonas Brothers in 'Cherub Bootcamp' (3:53/HD): An amusing, but somewhat pointless, little skit with the Jonas Brothers practicing to become the cherubs for the film.

Deleted Scenes (26:44/HD): Twelve deleted (or extended) scenes are presented here with optional commentary from Director Shawn Levy. The quality isn't quite up to the feature movie, but the actual content of these scenes does impress with plenty of amusing moments. The alternate ending is actually superb in that it brings back Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs for a short cameo.

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Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.
Gangster Levy (1:57/HD): A little film noir in which the director stars to create a gangster video clip used in the film.

Gag Reel (7:51/HD): With so many comedians working on this film this gag reel is pretty amusing and worth a watch.

Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene (9:36): A promotional piece seen on the Fox network which offers some information, but is more of an advertisement for the film then anything else.

Fox Movie Channel Presents World Premiere (5:29): A promotional clip for the premiere of Night at the Museum 2. Again, it's more promotional then filled with information.

OVERALL
If you liked Night at the Museum 2 at cinemas then there is no reason not to pick up this Blu-Ray release which includes a great transfer as well as some decent extras. For us though, the movie was a bit of a disappointment and lacked the fun and charm of the first movie. Still, the disc is certainly solid.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
6/10
THE VIDEO
8/10
THE AUDIO
10/10
THE EXTRAS
7/10
OVERALL
7.5/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.