It would have been easier if Battle Of The Smithsonian did not have a single shred of humour or charm, because then writing it off would have been easier. With a few decent actors pulling off some good jokes and some easy laughs that pay off early, as well as Amy Adams doing what she does best - charm the film to a better quality - it is harder to say that the film is utter trash.
All the rest of it, though - the rote screenplay, the terrible humour, the bad acting and the completely vapid characterization - is as bad as you think it is. This is the kind of movie that almost makes you think of the prequel fondly. Almost.
Getting a large and talented cast to play historical characters in a franchise that made money the first time around would not have been too taxing, so I don't really know where Shawn Levy spent his energy, because it sure as spit ain't on the screen. His framing is boring, and his sense of narrative non-existent, and his actors have no energy to speak of.
The leads being the worst offenders - Ben Stiller reprises his role as Larry, no longer a night watchman, but missing his friends nonetheless. When he finds out that they are being shipped to the Smithsonian museum in Washington D. C., he heads there, and with the unwitting aid of Jonah Hill, the 'new guy', he tries to stop Egyptian king Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) from rising up and ruling the world with the help of some dastardly villains of the past.
The whole cast he meets here - Azaria, Hill, Williams - they are all terrible, and hamming it up like this wasn't their day job either. Bill Hader gets a few laughs, and Owen Wilson is still good, but barring that almost all of the cast is a downer.
With the exception of Ms. Adams, of course. She is bright, energetic, funny, and just that right level of sexy that brings her Amelia Earhart to life. This is no biopic (that we shall leave to Mira Nair), but her Amelia is a nice enough character even being a caricature that she must portray for such a CGI-heavy film.
While the script is pretty empty and blank with lots of comments, one is led to believe, it is the bad level of acting from everyone surrounding Adams that makes the film ghastly. There is no energy, and most jokes seem lifeless - more so with the writing that refuses to make an effort, and introduces forced dialog and moments wherever it sees fit.
It is to Adams' credit that she stands out, because the film resolutely refuses to give room to anything other than CGI anyway. The constant bombardment of CGI is also not treated to give us a sense of wonder in seeing these legends come to life, but services standard jokes and a slapstick Lincoln statue.
I find it hard to recommend this film to anyone, be it child, CGI-fan adult, or Stiller fan. How's this for a summary: If you happen to be in a cinema that is playing this film, and you have watched absolutely everything else that could be a choice, and you really like Amy Adams, it probably wouldn't kill you to see this film.
For the rest of you - the miniscule number of laughs aren't worth it.