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Effects are star exhibit.

HISTORY is brought vividly to life with a dazzling array of computer-generated effects in Night At The Museum 2, a soulless exercise in digital might over emotional substance and subtlety.

Directed once again by Shawn Levy and aided and abetted by the cast of the 2006 family-oriented blockbuster, the sequel continues the misadventures of the living exhibits from New York City's famed Museum Of Natural History.

Screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon allow the visual effects team to run riot by relocating the storyline to the largest museum complex in the world - the halls of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.

Thus, in a chase around one gargantuan, subterranean vault, Ben Stiller's beleaguered night guard dodges the tentacles of a giant squid as a pterosaur swoops overhead and General Custer (Bill Hader) screeches into battle on his trusty motorcycle.

"What's the plan here?" Larry Daley (Stiller) wonders aloud.

"We're Americans.

We don't plan, we do," grins Custer.

Children will giggle at the bobble-head Albert Einsteins and one of Pop artist Jeff Koons's shiny balloon dogs, which bounds excitedly around the museum halls.

Humour skews towards teenage and adult audiences, poking fun at historical figures such as

Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln, whose memorial on the National Mall enjoys a night-time stroll.

Security guard Larry has left behind his old job at the museum to front Daley Devices infomercial products, which has just launched the glow-in-the-dark torch.

Returning to his old haunt, Larry is distraught to learn from Dr McPhee (Gervais, pictured) that many of the old exhibits are being replaced by state-of-the-art holographic technology, condemning cowboy Jed (Wilson) and mighty Roman emperor Octavius (Coogan) to storage in Washington.

On arrival at their new home, Jed and co are attacked by cranky pharaoh Kahmunrah (Azaria), who intends to take over the world.

Night At The Museum 2 regurgitates everything that worked in the first film and garnishes with new characters including The Wright Brothers and Degas' iconic dancing girl.

Stiller and Adams gel nicely, the latter luminous as a gal who says what she thinks, telling Larry plainly, "What I see in front of me is a man who has lost his moxie".

Painful..
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 22, 2009
Words:363
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