When Night at the Museum hit theatres in 2006, there was little pressure on Shawn Levy.
Sure, the Montreal-born director expected his movie to do well (Ben Stiller had a decent track record after all) but he never would’ve predicted the comedy would pull in nearly $575 million US worldwide.
So when Levy was approached to make the blockbuster’s highly-anticipated sequel, he naturally felt a twinge of anxiety.
“It was daunting because there was so much goodwill towards the first movie and we only wanted to make a sequel if we could make it better than the first,” said Levy over the phone from a Hollywood soundstage. “In that regard, the pressure was self-inflicted. Ben and I wanted to make a movie that was not just bigger but actually better.”
As such, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was born. In theatres tomorrow, the sequel finds ex-guard Larry Daley (Stiller) keeping tabs on the nocturnally-resurrected museum artifacts when they get shipped to the Smithsonian and face an ancient evil pharaoh (Hank Azaria).
“Part of (the key to success) was setting the movie at the biggest museum in the world (where we were) guaranteed an escalation of scale,” said Levy.
But Battle of the Smithsonian would be nowhere without its indulgence in computer effects as well. The comedy relies on a massive amount of CGI, animating everything from a Teddy Roosevelt bust to the Abe Lincoln Memorial.
“The daily challenge of being the director of this movie is keeping the balance right between comedy and CGI and understanding the comedy comes first every time.” CGI created other challenges as well. Since Stiller is not a fan of working opposite non-existent characters, scenes that involved conversations with computer-generated objects became tricky. But Levy found a way around it.
“Every time Ben acted with a (computer-generated) character, I played the character,” admitted Levy.