Thanks to a faster pace an assorted group of extended cameos, NATM2 manages to improve slightly on its original. Although the premise of this film is absolute tosh, the magic and wonder it displays to help aid its excitement is sadly negated in favour of slapstick. It even manages to break of few of its own rules along the way as well, which if thought about will only cause confusion (the whole rule about how things are brought back to life doesn’t seem to apply to Amy Adams’ character in the end when she drops everyone off in her plane and then flies away from what surely is the source of her life). But again, to think about such quibbles for what is essentially a family entertainment movie is probably to miss out on all the fun.
And there is a fair amount of fun to be had. Most of the original supporting cast are back, even if it is for only a couple of scenes (Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams). Others have been given extended screen time since the first venture (Owen Wilson). This time round they have managed to make room for a few new historical characters along the way. The aforementioned Amy Adams as the first woman to cross the Atlantic on a plane seems game enough. Although, that said, it does feel slightly creepy that a person made out of wax should have a semi-romantic subplot with the lead.
Hank Azaria probably gets most of the laughs as the lisping villain. He manages to temper both laughs and even a few sinister moments that should work well on young audiences. It is also perhaps most of his scenes where the dialogue is at its most clever. But then if you prefer not to have jokes that require a bit of thought then there’s plenty more monkey slapping going on as well.
Moving proceedings to the Smithsonian galleries opens out the prospect of new inventive things to do, with the artworks coming to life. This is realised to good effect with some very famous paintings (despite many of these being paintings and photographs we have seen many a time in film). It is also then done to confusing effect in other areas. More of a tight fist on what the film-makers were going to use and the logistics of it all may have helped them flow the material with greater ease. But then with so many things coming to life you’d probably expect a bit of background chaos.
The film as a whole, however, does feel cramped from time to time with five jokes thrown in where one would have done just fine. It seems they are trying to please every audience member out there. There is of course going to be a high rate of both hit and miss jokes which ultimately levels the film out as strictly average. It may be trying to be the live action Toy Story franchise, but the writing just isn’t there. And Ben Stiller does what he does best. He plays Ben Stiller…