THE LATEST ENTRY in the genre of "sequels nobody asked for," Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian follows the 2006 kiddie flick that starred Ben Stiller as Larry, a night guard for New York City's Museum of Natural History. If you missed the first installment, the museum held a magical Egyptian tablet that brought every exhibit to life. At the start of Smithsonian, Stiller has quit his museum job to start a successful gadget company, and in his absence, all the exhibits have been packed away for storage at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
The magical tablet goes with them, too, so I bet you can guess what happens: The entire Smithsonian collection becomes a carnival of historical characters brought to life! One of the newly animated figures is a nasty Egyptian pharaoh, Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, doing a variation on Vincent Price), who has evil plots aplenty, so Stiller rushes down to save his friends.
It's all eye-rollingly silly, but while the first Night at the Museum was a strident, obnoxious mess, Smithsonian achieves a fevered level of madcap goofiness. For every chorus of Einstein bobble-heads singing, "That's the way, uh uh, uh huh, I like it," there's Azaria hilariously lisping within an inch of his life. Every time winged cherubs (played by the Jonas Brothers) cheesily serenade Stiller and Amelia Earhart (a strong, saucy Amy Adams), there's a gigantic statue of Abraham Lincoln that smashes everything in sight. If you're the type of person who gets a kick out of seeing General Custer (Bill Hader) sharing the screen with Owen Wilson (who, remember, played Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums), or Darth Vader facing off against Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), you might like all of this more than you think.
Oh, there's also a monkey wearing a spacesuit.