Director: Shawn Levy Release Date: 20/05/09 Link: I guess there are times when bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Such is the case with “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” director Shawn Levy’s follow-up to 2006’s “Night at the Museum,” which tells the story of a newly-hired night watchman and various exhibits that magically come to life soon after the sun sets. Almost all of the major players from the first film are back — Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley, Ricky Gervais’ Dr. McPhee, Robin Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt, Owen Wilson’s Jedediah Smith, Mizuo Peck’s Sacajawea and Steve Coogan’s Octavius — but now the majority of the narrative has moved from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History to the immense Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. And with this move comes a whole new line-up of characters, including Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria), General George Custer (Bill Hader), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat) and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal). However, the introduction of these historical figures is part of the reason “Battle of the Smithsonian” lacks the wit and charm of the original chapter. Levy (“Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Pink Panther” and “Just Married”) keeps the pace zipping along pretty quickly, but with this method comes a crippling cost: The movie is overstuffed with too many underdeveloped characters and nearly all of them are easily forgettable, thanks to their small amount of screen time and stale personalities. If it was handled the right way, I’m sure “Battle of the Smithsonian” could have turned out being an interesting film that appeals to people of all ages. I mean, a premise that includes famous museum displays that can walk and talk has unlimited potential, but sadly the predictable script from Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant plays it safe at every turn. And that, in my book, is a huge letdown, mainly because Lennon and Garant are responsible for writing episodes for the ultra-hilarious television series “Reno 911!” (They also play Lt. Jim Dangle and Deputy Travis Junior, respectively.) I understand that the screenwriting duo had to tone it down since “Battle of the Smithsonian” was made with a younger audience in mind, but that doesn’t mean the film should be devoid of material that is regularly funny. (Hindsight is 20/20, but I probably shouldn’t have had too high of an expectation because their track record of writing children’s films — “The Pacifier” and “Herbie Fully Loaded” — isn’t what you would call spectacular.) Lennon and Garant’s script for the first “Night at the Museum” worked a lot better because there was a worthwhile story that took place both inside and outside the museum. It wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was easy to get behind Stiller’s Larry Daley and root for him while he juggled the responsibilities of finding a stable job and reconnecting with his son Nick (Jake Cherry). In “Battle of the Smithsonian,” Nick is only in a few throwaway scenes and the uninspired dilemma that Larry is struggling with now revolves around his discontent for his new career as an inventor who sells products on infomercials. But Larry’s life gets a sudden jolt when he learns that some of his old friends at the Museum of Natural History have been regarded as out-of-date and are being shipped in crates to the archives of the Smithsonian where they will collect dust for decades. Although Larry has seemingly put his nights as a museum security guard behind him, he rushes to the nation’s capital when he learns that the Egyptian Pharaoh Kahmunrah has awakened from a 3,000-year slumber and is threatening to take over the planet by unleashing the Army of the Underworld. I know not every person is going to agree with me on this one, but I’m going to say it anyway: Azaria’s lisping Kahmunrah is one of the most annoying and unfunny characters that has ever appeared on a movie screen. I didn’t laugh once during any of his repetitive gags and it’s just frustrating that someone like Azaria decided to take on a role that is so obnoxious and humorless. (A singing threesome of cherubs voiced by the Jonas Brothers also adds to the movie’s many groan-inducing moments.) The only character that really brings any sense of spark to the film is the moxie-filled Amelia Earhart, and Adams provides so much charisma and spunk that you can almost forgive the filmmakers for squeezing in her rushed and pointless romance with Stiller. (Hader’s Custer also has a couple of amusing scenes and the encounter between Larry and a security guard played by Jonah Hill supplies the greatest number of laughs.) Rest assured, most kids will enjoy “Battle of the Smithsonian” a whole lot more than I did, but with its unimaginative and sloppy story I find it hard to believe that parents in tow will share the same kind of enthusiasm. Rating: 4/10