Thursday, May 21, 2009

Movie Reviews: Two Films for Kids of All Ages

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Ben Stiller is back as Larry Daley in the sequel to the 2006 action comedy hit about museum pieces that come to life in the overnight hours. Larry has moved on from his guard position at the Museum of Natural History -- but still checks in on his late night friends from time to time. When the museum decides to undergo some upgrades and renovations, many of the pieces are moved into federal storage at the Smithsonian Institution -- where once again, exhibits spring into action as soon as the sun goes down. Larry realizes he misses his friends -- and makes his way to D.C. just in time to get mixed up in a power struggle between some of the Smithsonian's pieces and those who have moved down from New York.

Fans of the first movie will be happy to see some familiar faces (Robin Williams and Owen Wilson), as well as some great new additions (Amy Adams and Hank Azaria). But the laughs are few and far between, the storyline simple and the action slow. However, the film does maintain some of the charm of the original -- and includes a few surprises to the already fascinating special effects.

Grade: B-


The geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures have reached new heights with this delightful family film directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.). Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner and animated to resemble Spencer Tracey) is a retired 78-year-old balloon salesman who is being forced to leave his beloved home for an assisted living facility. Instead, he concocts a brilliant plan to keep his house while also fulfilling a lifelong dream of visiting South America. Unwittingly, he takes a chubby eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell along for the ride. The two opposites set off for a thrilling adventure as they encounter rough terrain, unexpected foes, and some interesting creatures that inhabit the wilderness of Venezuela.

Up is the first Pixar film to be presented in both Disney Digital 3D and regular formats. The feature is accompanied by the equally wonderful animated short film, Partly Cloudy. Both films are full of heart and humor -- and will remind viewers of the value of friendships. Unfortunately, the advance screening I attended was not in 3D, but that only gives me the perfect excuse to see this terrific movie again when it opens nationwide on May 29.

Grade: A

5/31 update: I did see Up again today -- this time in 3D. I thought the 3D effects, at least at the theater I attended, were very minimal. So don't stress out about seeing it only in regular format! It will save you a few bucks!

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