It’s summer. We want fun. We want mindless laughter and crunchy popcorn. We don’t want Ingmar Bergman. No matter what those ancient, snootburger, cheerless critics say about it, what we want is films like “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” currently playing all over the joint.
The “Night at the Museum” franchise looked doomed, back in 2006. Sure, a clever idea full of madcap scurryings, but total fluff, and you left the theater with that I Have Just Finished Eating Too Much Cotton Candy aftertaste.
But along comes the next trolley on this line and, surprisingly enough, “Battle of the Smithsonian” is a more-than-equal sequel. Same gang of funsters are back, with Ben Stiller better than usual, and his museum maniacs Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais and Bill Hader. Plus some great additions:
Amy Adams shows up with both her big blue eyes, adorable as always, as Amelia Earhart. And the versatile Hank Azaria is the new villain, an ancient Egyptian baddie-poo named Kahmunrah doing an EXACT comic knock-off of Boris Karloff.
The plot, simply contrived and contrived simply to bring our friends (including that adorable puppy dog T-Rex) back to the screen, has the Museum of Natural History in New York City closed for renovations and our favorite exhibits moved to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
From there on, the conceit of the franchise (a magic tablet that brings the exhibits to life) takes over and we can set the cookie cutter plot aside and just enjoy the loonies on parade.
As expected, the film is full of action and laughs and slapstick, just the cure for your sunburn, and there’s a bonus: You won’t feel you’ve wasted your afternoon on just another stupid summer movie because there’s always the rationalization available that this glitzy Smithsonian showcase will, in the long run, encourage museum-going by that tribe of morons we fondly call our younger generation.
So while I am ensuring my enshrinement in Movie Critics’ Hell, I might as well pass along a well-deserved kudo for another stupid summer release I recently enjoyed via Netflix. “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” had a big screen release last Halloween and ended up a modest financial success for Kevin Smith fans. It’s still a great stay-at-home date night DVD movie, though not on the FIRST date, one would imagine.
For film fans that are familiar with the names Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, and chummy with Friends-With-Benefits generational values, Zack and Miri’s porno flick is a total hoot. It is also absolutely NOT for kiddies, grandma, or adults with overstuffed shirts.
The attitude toward sex in this unexpectedly sweet film is casual to the max. Slacker Zack and roommate lifelong-friend Miri live near Pittsburgh, and in the dead of winter find themselves completely out of funds.
No food, no ‘lectricity, no fun. So they decide that one quick, sure-fire way to make a gang of money is (surprise!) to make a porno flick. They immediately recruit a gang of friends and – hey, you don’t need a plot simpler than that.
When ensues is a couple of hours of light-hearted sexy fun, giggles galore, and very hip naughtiness. It’s a lot of fun for those of us who don’t take sex quite as seriously as our fathers and forefathers did.
If you missed it just on general principles due to the title, give the DVD a chance. It’s funny, and a beautiful little barometer for measuring your own With-It-ness. And you may be pleasantly surprised at discovering that the underlying morality of this sleeper is about as new-fashioned as a butter churn.
– Column by Carl Larsen