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Due to Royal Mail's recent inability to fulfil their primary function of delivering post, our review copy for Night at the Museum 2 arrived only a couple of days before the release date. Unfortunately this meant that we had very little turnaround time, so this review is somewhat shorter than usual.

 Night at the Museum 2

Feature


When New York's Museum of Natural History closes for renovations the magical exhibits are crestfallen to learn that they are being transported to the Smithsonian to spend the rest of their days in storage. Facing a bleak future without the Tablet of Ahkmenrah—the magic tablet that grants them life—the exhibits bid a sad farewell to the museum and to their friend, security-guard-turned-inventor Larry Daley (Ben Stiller). Trapped in the vast archives of the Smithsonian it’s not long before the exhibits realise that the Tablet of Ahkmenrah was smuggled into the museum with them, and that it has brought some of history’s greatest villains to life!

Determined to deliver his friends from harm’s way, Larry rushes to Washington D.C. to face off against such infamous characters as Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Pharaoh Kahmunrah (brother of Ahkmenra). In order to succeed Larry must team up with his old friends Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan), as well as newcomer Amelia Earheart (Amy Adams). Can Larry reclaim the tablet and save the world from the historical despots? You'll have to watch the film.
 
 Night at the Museum 2

Video


Night at the Museum 2 arrives with a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) that is pretty much what you’d expect from a film of such recent vintage. The image is nicely detailed, perfectly showcasing the intricate costumes and set design, while the bright and bold colour scheme is very well-rendered, if a little skewed towards the warmer end of the spectrum (giving everyone that ‘parma tan’ look). Black levels are fine, if not outstanding, the image is very clean, and there are no glaringly obvious issues like edge enhancement or grain reduction to report. I’ll admit that the theatrical showing I attended was some time ago, but the BD ticks all of the right boxes and faithfully reproduces what I remember from that big screen outing.

Audio


The disc’s primary audio track is a very effective DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 affair, which strikes just the right balance between subtlety and in-your-face action. All five of the main channels are given plenty to do when bringing the impressive set-pieces to life (if you’re excuse the pun), with smooth panning between the speakers and a good overall balance between effects, score, and dialogue. There’s also some rather meaty bass reinforcing the action, with Honest Abe's footsteps, the Dumb Dumb statue and Rexy acting as particular highlights. All things considered the track does everything you’d expect and more, and for my money it’s the standout element of the disc (even if it did necessitate cranking the amp up a bit to get the best out of it).

 Night at the Museum 2

Extras


Night at the Museum 2 is one of Fox's 'triple play' sets, which means that buyers can look forward to DVD and Digital Copy versions of the film along with their Blu-ray Disc. As I've said before, I'm all in favour of this as long as the price is kept down, because it's always handy to have a DVD copy of a film for the kids (or whatever).

The Blu-ray features kick off with dual commentary tracks from director Shawn Levy and writers Robert Ben Grant and Thomas Lennon. Levy's commentary is a bit like his direction—satisfactory, but unremarkable—while the writers' track is a bit livelier. Next up is the BonusView 'Scavenger Mode', which asks you to press the coloured buttons on the remote whenever you see the corresponding item on the screen. Get it right and you get points, but get it wrong and you get buzzed.

Next up we have a pretty standard 'making of entitled 'The Curators of Comedy: Behind the Scenes of Night at the Museum 2' (27:52 HD), which covers all of the usual bases (it's actually a bit more interesting than the usual making ofs). This is followed by 'Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words' (06:29 HD), which features in-character interviews with all of the film's villains. 'Directing 201: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy' (19:19 HD) offers some insight into what the director does on set (mainly ask his first AD to take over for him). I was oddly annoyed by the way he referred to all the American actors by their first names, but only used the British actors' surnames.

 Night at the Museum 2
'Cavemen Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest' (04:19 HD) is a pretty redundant feature in which the cavemen are interviewed in character. They can't speak English, so it's just a few minutes of them mugging and grunting. 'Museum Magic: Entering the World of the Photograph' (05:41 HD) takes a look at the technical side to the impressive Times Square set piece, while 'Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind the Scenes of the Natural History Museum' (15:59 HD) is an interesting look at the daily goings-on at the famous New York museum.

'Phinding Pharaoh' (04:50 HD) is basically Hank Azaria doing a load of different voices during his screen test, and I have to admit that I found it quite amusing. 'Primate Prima Donnas' (06:27 HD) focusses on the simian star of the film, a monkey called Crystal. I want her for a pet. 'The Jonas Brothers in 'Cherub Bootcamp' (03:53 HD) is basically a few minutes of Shawn Levy pretending to berate the Jonas Brothers for their lack of cherub acting ability. I was not amused.

Twelve deleted scenes with optional director's commentary (26:44 HD) follow, and include an alternate ending that harks back to the first film. They are followed by 'Gangster Levy' (01:57 HD), which is a short black and white gangster sequence featuring the director. It was shot as a background piece and can be seen in the main feature. A reasonably amusing gag reel (07:51 HD) comes next. Most of the hilarity comes courtesy of Ricky Gervais, who may just have the world’s most ridiculous laugh (in a good way).

 Night at the Museum 2
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (09:37 SD) is another of those disposable TV featurettes that includes interviews with cast and crew as they go about the business of planning and shooting a scene from the movie (specifically the 'go, no go, for launch' sequence). The focus of 'Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere' (05:30 SD) should be blindingly obvious from the title. Yes, that's right; a peppy blonde presenter interviews the stars at the film's premiere. The disc also has Smartphone interactivity, but I don't have one of those.

Overall


Night at the Museum 2 is a better film than its predecessor, but it’s still in the lower echelons of comedy movies. Having said that, it compares favourably to recent mainstream ‘comedy’ features like Year One and Land of the Lost (which were fairly dire), and if nothing else the film is worth seeing for Hank Azaria and Amy Adams’ performances. Technically the disc is pretty damn good, with great visuals, excellent audio, and a large amount of bonus material to while away the hours. This is a no-brainer purchase for fans, but the uninitiated might want to rent first.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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