3/5 Dir Shawn Levy US (PG12) The first Night at the Museum was a fiasco, so the thought of a sequel was pretty horrendous. But here it is, and it’s better than predicted, though hardly fault-free: the Toy Story-esque plot could be written on the femur of a dormouse and some scenes still lean towards inanity. But, in the main, this is a funnier and more coherent slice of kids’ entertainment. The first instalment saw Ben Stiller’s museum night watchman grapple with an assemblage of natural history exhibits that mysteriously sprang to life. Despite his new career as a flash entrepreneur, Larry (Stiller) has never forgotten his band of eclectic pals. So when he hears that New York’s Museum of Natural History has shipped its dated exhibits to the Smithsonian Institute’s underground storage facility, he feels compelled to do something about it.
Stiller is still vaguely likeable in the lead, but the rest of the original cast (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais) remain unconvincing. Thank heavens, then, for newcomers Amy Adams, Hank Azaria and Bill Hader. Adams nails her period part and Hader is uproarious as a camp General Custer. But it’s Azaria’s immature Pharaoh who remains most memorable; his pantomime scenes are like vintage Python. Figure in some quality production values and you have a follow-up in far finer fettle. Derek Adams Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore.
Rachel Getting Married
2/5 Dir Jonathan Demme US (PG15) We really, really wanted to like Rachel Getting Married. Though many scoffed at the idea of pretty Anne Hathaway, romcom golden girl and all-round wide-eyed innocent type, playing a drug addict fresh out of rehab, we figured maybe this was the meat she’d been waiting to get her teeth into ever since The Princess Diaries (the source of her subsequent cutesy-cute typecasting). It would also be interesting to see director Demme return to fiction. The man behind Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs had spent the past few years making documentaries about Jimmy Carter and Neil Young – was it time for another Oscar-grabbing opus to mark his return to the ‘major motion picture’?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Rachel Getting Married is insufferable. It starts well. Hathaway does a decent job convincing as greasy-haired, baggy-eyed and self-involved Kym, and as we’re introduced to her eccentric circle of family and friends, we warm to the idea of getting to know these atypical Americans. But then it just tries too damn hard.
The story follows Kym’s return home from rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s ‘kooky’ nuptials, reopening old wounds and, eventually, helping them heal. The documentary style pushes us right into the eye of the action: a technique Demme overhams (possibly because he’s still in docu-mode), and after about 20 minutes with these ker-azy folks with, like, sooo many issues, you’ll be begging for some distance.
The whole enterprise feels more and more forced as it goes on, the violinists hanging out in the garden and alternative-style wedding grating rather than delighting. This all serves to detract from the story, which would have been affecting enough played simply, without the bells and whistles. Ultimately, what could have been inspiring winds up merely annoying. Laura Chubb Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore.