The best set piece in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is probably Larry Daley's wild flight through the National Air and Space Museum riding the original Wright Flyer with an animated waxwork Amelia Earhart.
At least, it's the one time in the film—in either film, really—that I felt a connection to Larry. If I ever met him now, I would say, "Dude. Speaking of crazy goings-on in the Air and Space Museum, let me tell you about the time my wife and kids and I climbed out of their elevator escape hatch and up the shaft after being trapped between floors for two-thirds of an hour. Me with a baby on my back, too." We would totally bond.
After that, we would have less to talk about, at least as regards his new adventure. In the original Night at the Museum, Larry was a night watchman whose life certainly got weird when he went to work at Manhattan's Museum of Natural History, but he himself was more concerned about his life outside the museum: his desire for his son's respect, his awkward relationship with his ex-wife and her new man, his entrepreneurial aspirations.
Even inside the museum, the action was driven, not by the animated exhibits, but by a trio of human conspirators. The plot was driven by human beings, even if the appeal of the movie was the special-effects eye candy. You might say the magical museum exhibits were a sort of reverse MacGuffin—it's what the audience cares about, but it isn't the characters' main focus.
This time out, though, the exhibits have taken over in more ways than one. Larry's family ties are strictly on the back burner; the movie is bookended with brief appearances by his son Nicky (Jake Cherry), but Nicky doesn't really figure into the plot or Larry's motives. Nor ...1