JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
***1/2 (out of 5)
February 10, 2012
Dwayne Johnson as HANK
Michael Caine as ALEXANDER
Josh Hutcherson as SEAN
Luis Guzman as GABATO
Vanessa Hudgens as KAILANI
Kristin Davis as LIZ
Directed by: Brad Peyton
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m a sucker for a movie that taps into something of my childhood. It may be the silliest movie that’s ever been made, but if it captures something in my imagination that reminds me what I loved as a young boy, I may just fall in love with it.
“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is one of those movies. It’s an unlikely sequel (and I say “unlikely” because I didn’t realize the first film was a bona fide hit) to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The story continues with Sean (Josh Hutcherson), who fancies himself a “Vernian” explorer, that is someone who believes the stories of Jules Verne were actually true. Of course, Sean has good reason for thinking this since he did, indeed, travel to the center of the Earth with his dad several years before.
After getting a cryptic radio transmission from his grandfather, Sean and his step-father Hank (Dwayne Johnson) crack the code that can lead them to the mysterious island that Verne wrote about. Sean convinces Hank to travel to the South Pacific, where they charter a helicopter and crash land on the island. Of course, after finding his grandfather, Sean and his friends must find a way off the island.
First, I’ll admit that this is an absolutely ridiculous premise. There’s very little science in this story, and the characters take enormous leaps of faith to make this quest. But that’s okay. The movie doesn’t try to be anything coherent or scientifically accurate.
In fact, the first act of the film plows by so fast that the viewer has little time to question anything, much less the logical inconsistencies and complete impossibility of the story. And that works fine because it’s an adventure movie made for young kids and their families. In short, it is exactly like the first film.
However, not quite. Replacing Brandon Fraser with Dwayne Johnson was a good thing. I can’t exactly remember how he fit into the equation, and the movie barely even takes a nod at Fraser’s absence, but like the lack of scientific explanations, that’s okay. Johnson makes a far better action hero than Fraser ever did, and he really works well for the family audience.
Once the team gets to the island, the film becomes a 3D spectacular of a colorful and vibrant world. There’s a few scenes that seem to have been lifted (with less finesse) out of “Avatar,” but for the most part, the film sticks to the wonder and awe of the digital world here. Sure, there’s a weird little love story between Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens, as well as a completely nonsensical feud between Sean and Hank over whether to abandon their quest to get off the island to explore a volcano of gold, but these are par for the course on silly, contrived films like this.
Still, there were some really stupid character elements that I have to admit I laughed at in this movie. The “pec pop of love” scene, which we’ve seen in the trailer, is utterly ridiculous but makes me chuckle every time. And pretty much any scene with Luis Guzman (Greenfield Community College Human Beings represent, yo!) had me smiling.
In the end, it’s clear that “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is a mess of inconsistent characters against and impossible backdrop with a goofy story. But it reminded me of the old Saturday morning live-action television shows of my youth, like “The Land of the Lost” and “Danger Island.” They weren’t great fiction, but doggoned it if they weren’t fun.