Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, Ben Stiller and Amy Adams are shown in a scene from "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."

You see many proud parents around these days, arm in arm with happy graduates in caps and gowns.

Yep, Mom and Dad are proud. But they've probably been happier. Because the actual happiest day in parents' lives is when they no longer have to go to the movies with their kids.

Like when they can pull up outside the multiplex and unload a car full of screaming tweens on "Wolverine." If there weren't such a thing as child-protective services, I would have abandoned someone close to me at "Pokemon 4" some years ago.

Of course, there are movies you can see with your kids and enjoy. Anything by Pixar, for example. The occasional "Shrek."

But there are also "family" movies that leave you reaching reflexively for the hip flask. And "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" is one.

If there's one thing that a movie-going Mom or Dad understands, it's the look in the eyes of someone who's just going through the motions, and there's a lot of that going on in "Night 2."

Ben Stiller returns, apparently at gunpoint, as the former night watchmen at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits come to life during the graveyard shift.

The fitful script has Stiller returning to the museum after a profitable but spiritually empty life as a TV pitchman and inventor. He stops by for a visit, and learns most of his pals (Owen Wilson's cowboy, Steve Coogan's Roman emperor, Robin Williams' Teddy Roosevelt) are to be mothballed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Loooooong story short — Stiller heads down there to save them, infiltrating the museum and doing what he can to liberate his pals, then save them from a pharaoh (Hank Azaria) who wants to banish them to the Egyptian underworld (don't ask).

Azaria has a knack for funny accents, and here he does a lisping, continental Karloff, as he summons a demonic inner circle that includes Napoleon (who's short, ho ho ho) and Al Capone.

Stiller, on the other hand, is able to recruit Gen. Custer (Bell Hedar) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) to fight for the good guys.

There's meant to be a romance between Stiller and Adams, but to say that there's a chemistry problem is to describe Earhart as "still missing."

Also missing: the sort of charm that should come easily to a movie about objects springing magically to life (a thread about modern art jumping from the walls is wasted). "Night 2" purports to lament the demise of the tactile museum, to decry the digital age, but it doesn't have a hands-on soul of its own.

It's a bunch of blocked-out spaces, with bored actors looking blankly at things a digital engineer will add months later.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Directed by Shawn Levy. With Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Hank Azaria, Jonah Hill, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Craig Robinson, Steve Coogan, Amy Adams. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Running time: 1 hours, 45 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for mild action and brief language).