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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
  • Composed by Alan Silvestri
  • Varese Sarabande / 2009 / 50:01

Sometimes films confound all expectations and do far better than anyone really imagines they might – such was the case with Shaun Levy’s Night at the Museum, which ended up being the second most-successful film of  2006.  A silly – but obviously well-liked – film about museum exhibits coming to life, the sequel (Battle of the Smithsonian) moves to what is probably the US’s most famous museum; and this time round Ben Stiller is joined on his adventures by Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart, Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible and Robin Williams comes back as Theodore Roosevelt.

Composer Alan Silvestri was a late addition to the crew for the first movie after John Ottman’s score was rejected; and the somewhat rushed nature of his involvement seemed a perfectly reasonable defence for the slightly disjointed feel to the music, which certainly gave the impression of something which had been put together in a hurry – even though Silvestri’s typically professional approach was always in evidence.  However, there was no need for his score for the sequel to be rushed – so I’m not sure what has happened here.

Indeed, to all intents and purposes, this is very nearly the same score as Silvestri provided for the first film – you’d have a hard time telling them apart in a line-up, that’s for sure.  The first score’s strengths are all repeated, as are its weaknesses.  Chief amongst the strengths is the main theme – always a Silvestri speciality – and that is reprised in the opening piece, but after that its appearances are mostly in fragmented form.  “The Tablet” shapes up to be a great piece of action/adventure music (which this composer can do very well) but sadly then becomes symptomatic of what prevents this album from being truly enjoyable – changing suddenly from typical Silvestri action music into a silly civil war tune.  These sudden, complete changes in direction from the music are present throughout the album, and make listening to it a real challenge.

There are certainly some excellent moments here – a nice Mummy Returns-style theme in “He Doesn’t Have All Night”, a delightful comedy string theme in “The Adventure Continues” – but it is rare that any idea is showcased for more than a few seconds before Silvestri moves onto something else.  Over a 50-minute album, that becomes very tiresome, very quickly.  Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is no doubt a perfectly fine film score, but it’s one which just doesn’t work as an album – there are simply too many ideas, too much going into the mix, and nothing gets enough attention.  All the right ingredients are here, but when added into the melting pot together, what is produced is far less than the sum of its parts.  ** 1/2

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