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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Night at the Museum 2")

 

(Shawn Levy, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: 1492 Pictures & 21 Laps

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:44:43.277

Disc Size: 40,444,064,488 bytes

Feature Size: 21,635,616,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.10 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: December 1st, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 0 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48
kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Director Shawn Levy

• Commentary by Writers Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon

• Curators of Comedy: Behind the Scenes – in HD (27:52)

• Phinding Pharoah – in HD (4:50)

• Directing 201: A Day in the Life – in HD (19:19)

• Museum Magic – in HD (5:41)

• Secret Doors & Scientists - in HD (15:58)

• Cherub Boot Camp with the Jonas Brothers – in HD (3:53)

• Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words – in HD (6:29)

• Cavemen Conversations – in HD (4:18)

• 12 Deleted Scenes & Alternate Ending – in HD (26:44)

• Show Me the Monkey Featurettes – in HD (17:59)

• Gag Reel – in HD (8:10)

• Gangster Levy – in HD (1:57)

• Museum Scavenger Hunt Game

 

 

The Film: 4
It was inevitable: a bigger, more elaborately staged, more expensive Night at the Museum! And now that the filmmakers have done the largest and most elaborate museum in the world, one wonders where they go from here. The mind boggles. But back to the Smithsonian, where most of Larry Daley's (Ben Stiller) once treasured treasures are being shipped from the New York's Museum of Natural History to make way for more interactive (that's funny when you consider what Larry once had) technohip exhibits. In the two year interim, Larry has become something of a celeb as an infomercial huckster for his own "inventions." But, alas, his heart isn't in it. Would yours, after once spending the night with living historical icons? The rouse is that Larry must get his keister over to their new home in D.C. before Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) wakes up, places the ancient life-arousing tablet in the door of the tomb and invokes a sleeping army to take over the world – or some plot to that effect.

The conceit, as they call it, of the movie is that some of the historical figures know they get to have the time of their life only at night – and not every night, it would seem. So questions about taking over the world by one of them would be moot unless he also gets the power to remain amongst us in the day hours, and the budding romance between Larry and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) would become even more problematic. On the other hand, Larry doesn't come to life except at night either, so maybe it's a match made in a Rubik's Cube.

Do you have any trouble seeing Ben Stiller as a romantic lead, or even having a serious romantic interest? I do. Stiller has worked so diligently at keeping this side of him at arm's length from his audience that when Amy Adams takes a fancy to him I am left dazzled by her imagination, since Stiller offers little, if anything, that turn on the necessary hormones. He doesn't even exude the minimum lost puppy look that I think he's trying for here. So, points for Amy, and ditto that for Hank Azaria, whose Boris Karloff non-imitation (adding just a bit more zip to Karloff's natural lisp) are among the few things that will keep both kids and adults smiling in their seats – the others being the dinosaur skeleton that likes to play fetch and the exceedingly imaginative paintings and photographs that not only come to life, but are interactive as well.

Targeted for the pre-teen set, Night at the Museum 2 is a harmless bit of nonsense that does everything possible to dissuade its audience from following up with any research into the historical characters that present themselves. The most clichéd attributes (true and legendary) are repeated ad nauseum (sic.) It seems that these characters have learned nothing from their having resided in an educational institution for ever so long. (Should we take this as a statement about the American school system?) As for Ms. Earhart, we can always see what Hilary Swank and Mira Nair have to say on the subject. Then there's Kahmunrah himself: If anything he's more lifelike than any of the other historical figures (except for Amelia, of course, and maybe The Thinker), but was he ever a real pharaoh, or even a pretender? Do you remember the moment in the movie where you asked yourself that question?


 

Image: 9/9    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Whatever we might think of the movie, the technical realization of its $150,000,000 price tag is well transferred to Blu-ray with convincing dimensionality, popping color saturation and natural flesh tones, deep blacks, and nary a digital manipulation or transgression anywhere to be seen. Kahmunrah's gold costume positively glows with the richness of the ages, Amelia's reddish-orange hair enhances her fiery temperament.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

Comparisons not exact frame!

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
The uncompressed DTS HD-MA mix comes to life, especially for the surrounds, once Larry finds himself running from the business end of a squad of Egyptian spears. But even then, the immersive effect is only hinted at rather than clearly or substantially articulated. Differentiation of the many rooms and spaces in and out of the Smithsonian are approximate and, with the help of the visuals, reasonably convincing. Dialogue is always clear and crisp. Alan Silvestri's music fills up the empty space.
 

Operations: 6
There are the usual hidden windows for the Extra Features, though the many extras do take some while to sort out. Unhappily, they provide no details.

 


 

Extras: 5
To hear Mssrs. Levy, Garant & Thomas speak of their creation, it is as if they have given us Godfather, Part 2 for the younger set. How many times can one say that they wouldn't have made this sequel if they couldn't have given the main character more depth – as if this eluded them the first time around! The answer is: more times than I cared to listen to. . . and yet! Given the many extra features, I would have thought there was ample room for some in depth remarks about the historical and fictitious characters whose caricatures appear and mug their way through the movie. Not on your life – virtual or otherwise! Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words is merely another chance for the supporting characters to make light of themselves, repeating and enlarging on the riffs that appear in the movie. Custer again and again bemoans his being famous only for the deaths of innocent soldiers. Besides being insulting (in the movie I was surprised Sacagawea doesn't slap his face), he doesn't really get to answer his own concern without a smirk.

There is an all too brief segment titled "Secret Doors & Scientists" about the real Smithsonian that offers a whiff of what goes into archiving and conserving our cultural heritage. It's far too short, which begs the question as to whether or not the filmmakers really thought their movie would send kids to their local museum or the library (virtual or not) to learn more. This could have been one such an opportunity – alas, not.

The production pieces are good enough. I liked the five and a half minute segment on how Eisenstaedt's famous Times Square kissing photo comes to life in "Museum Magic." Curators of Comedy is a half-hour Behind the Scenes piece that covers the territory, emphasizing the cast contributions. Directing 201: A Day in the Life follows Shawn in video diary fashion. Phindng Pharoah is a brief piece that shows Hank Azaria in search of the right delivery for his character. Cherub Boot Camp reveals the Jonas Brothers positively agog about being chosen for this most sensitive assignment.

The Show Me the Monkey Featurettes and the Cavemen Conversations should be watched, if at all, back to back to demonstrate how far we've come as a species! "Gangster Levy" is best left undescribed except to say that its 117-seconds includes an 80-second introduction. Draw your own conclusions.
One nice thing: all the extra features are in HD.

 

 

Bottom line: 6
The movie itself may not be much to brag about, but it's kind of fun at a completely juvenile (no offense) level. The image quality for Night at the Museum is very good, and the audio substantial, if not entirely compelling. I can't say much for the extra features, though they tend to be support the mood of the feature film.

Leonard Norwitz
December 5th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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