Journey 2 just plain silly
JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun
|Josh Hutcherson and Dwayne Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
Like some Discovery Channel-watching kids I know, I want my fantasy-adventure stories to make sense on some level.
Jules Verne did. Given the science of the time, his stories were above reproach. Hence no dinosaurs at the center of the Earth in his Journey To The Center Of The Earth (a shortcoming Hollywood fixed in the 2008 Brendan Fraser movie Journey To The Center Of The Earth -- leading nine-year-olds everywhere to ask, "What is a T-Rex doing at the center of the Earth when there's nothing to eat there?")
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island has so little to do with Jules Verne (The Mysterious Island was actually a "sequel" of sorts to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, not Journey), it makes the earlier film look like a documentary.
In fact, this superficial, spiritual grandchild to Jurassic Park seems to have been written on the fly, with what the writers have euphemistically called a "science adjacent" commitment to believability. We're talking an island that volcanically pops intermittently in and out of the ocean with a full ecosystem. Said ecosystem supports pygmy elephants along with giant iguanas, birds and bees (insects that apparently don't mind being ridden bareback by humans) and is ostensibly a remnant of Atlantis (though it's in the South Pacific).
Okay, enough science-geek kvetching. As one of my colleagues said, "They're riding giant bees! What else needs to be said?"
If anything in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is an improvement over its tepid predecessor, it's the tone of deliberate shtick and empty-headed silliness it adopts with its game-for-anything cast -- including Michael Caine, Dwayne Johnson, "it" kid Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games) and still-perky Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical). If you've seen the trailer with Johnson doing his "poppin' pecs of love" bouncing nuts toward the audience in 3-D, you know what we're talking about.
As the movie opens, we meet returning character Sean (Hutcherson), who's being chased on his motorbike by the cops after hacking a communications satellite (the better to communicate with his grandfather, who apparently has discovered, um, a mysterious island).
At home, he finds a surprising ally in his previously-uncool-on-any-level stepdad Hank (Johnson), who helps him decipher the code sent by grandpa (Caine) with the island's co-ordinates.
As any step-dad would, Hank decides traveling together to the South Pacific would be a good bonding experience. En route, they retain the services of a clownish helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his abrasive, sarcastic hottie of a daughter (Hudgens).
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
(This film is rated PG)
Rating: 2.5 stars
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Vanessa Hudgens
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Duration: One hour, 34 minutes
From there, it's just a matter of going through the motions of the nonsensical script (nobody ever really seems scared) onto which three Hollywood writers slapped Verne's book title. Caine and Johnson trade insults. Hutcherson clumsily tries to put the make on Hudgens, who repeatedly shoots him down. Guzman is the designated doofus, getting covered in bird-poop and egg-slime, and being given lame lines like, "if you'll look out your windows, on the right is the Pacific Ocean, and on the left is the Pacific Ocean."
Canadian-born director-for-hire Brad Peyton likes playing with big toys, and his bee-riding scenes are actually quite well done, their improbability aside. Unfortunately, there's as yet no way to computer-generate character development or sharp writing.
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