Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A big-budget sequel to the immensely popular and successful family comedy Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian again stars Ben Stiller as Larry Daley, the security guard at a museum where the exhibits come to life at night. However, when two of his exhibits (and friends) – roman centurion Octavius and cowboy Jedidiah Smith – are accidentally shipped to the Smithsonian, he must break in and rescue them. To Larry’s shock, however, he finds that the exhibits in the Smithsonian come to life too…

The film is again directed by Shawn Levy and has a star-studded supporting cast that includes Robin Williams, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and Hank Azaria, as well as a score by Alan Silvestri, who also scored the original. As was the case with the first film, Silvestri’s score is a playful, magical orchestral affair. The sweeping main theme from the first score re-appears with pleasing regularity, beginning with the opening title, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”, and later in cues such as the sentimental “This Night is Their Last”, the majestic “Entering the Air & Space Museum” (which also owes a great debt to Goldsmith), and the big finale pair “Victory is Ours” and “Goodbye”.

As one might expect, there’s a fairly large amount of flight and fun caper music, all dancing strings and fluttery woodwinds, but what’s really impressive about the score is just how much fun Silvestri seems to be having exploring different styles: his music is by turns exciting, scary, wondrous, magical, romantic, contemporary, classical, and everything in between, and often in the same cue (qv “I Smell Adventure”). It sounds like a hotchpotch of ideas and, in lesser hands, could have been a mess, but Silvestri somehow has the skill to take all these scattershot musical ideas and turn them into a cohesive whole that flows well.

The action music is generally well-staged, from the rousing “The Tablet” that sounds like a refugee from his Mummy score (although it does steal a percussion riff from James Newton Howard’s The Postman) to the militaristic, stirring “Octavius Attacks”, the broad and adventurous “Escape in Wright Flyer”, and the whirligig “I Ride the Squirrel”. Several one-off cues also impress, such as the fife-and-drum pageantry of “To Washington”, the Mission: Impossible techno music in “Getting Past Security”, the driving rock of “On Your Toes”, and the hoo-hah chants and Stargate-style wondrous crescendos of “Finding Jed and the Others”, “He Doesn’t Have All Night”, and the monstrous “Gate to the Underworld”, all of which act as a recurring leitmotif for the Kahmunrah character.

As with all Silvestri scores of this type, it is filled with his personal compositional idiosyncrasies, from the familiar chord progressions that he’s used in everything from Judge Dredd to Van Helsing, his string and brass phrasing, and his unique way of writing for brass. It’s nice when composers have a style, and it makes listening to the more orchestral parts of this score like coming home to a friend. Quite unexpectedly, this is a significant improvement on the rather tiresome original, and makes for a fun romp of score.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2:38)
  • Daley Devices (0:36)
  • This Night is Their Last (4:35)
  • To Washington (0:37)
  • Getting Past Security (1:49)
  • Finding Jed and the Others (3:16)
  • I Have Come Back To Life (1:04)
  • The Tablet (3:25)
  • I Smell Adventure (4:31)
  • He Doesn’t Have All Night (1:46)
  • The Adventure Continues (3:25)
  • Octavius Attacks (1:22)
  • Entering the Air & Space Museum (1:32)
  • Escape in Wright Flyer (3:29)
  • Got the Combination (2:19)
  • Gate to the Underworld (1:02)
  • I Ride the Squirrel (1:25)
  • On Your Toes (1:54)
  • The Battle (1:44)
  • Divide the House (1:28)
  • Victory is Ours (1:19)
  • Goodbye (2:43)
  • Museum Open Late (2:02)

Running Time: 50 minutes 01 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6969 (2009)

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