With Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luis Guzmán, Vanessa Hudgens. Written by Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn. Directed by Brad Peyton. Rated PG (for some adventure action, and brief mild language). 94 minutes.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND has little to do with the 2008 version of “Journey To The Center Of The Earth” except the return of Josh Hutcherson as Sean Anderson. This time, instead of going on a Jules Verne-inspired adventure with his uncle, he’s searching for his missing grandfather (Michael Caine) with the help of his mom’s boyfriend Hank (Dwayne Johnson). There are lots of CGI effects and it’s in 3D so if you’re around nine years old you’re going to think this is very cool. Teenagers and adults should look elsewhere.
Sean gets a mysterious coded message from his grandfather, which Hank helps him figure out. It has to do with an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Right from the start, logic flies out the window, never to return. The decoded message requires that Josh not only have three different books, but the correct early editions of them so a map spread over the three volumes can be reconstructed.
Soon, improbably, Josh and Hank are on the island of Palau where Gabato (Luis Guzmán) is the only one willing to relieve them of their money and take them to dangerous location. His nubile daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) provides Sean with a love interest, although she spends much of the film brushing him off. Once on the island, they discover miniature elephants, giant insects, a volcano spewing gold, and Josh’s grandfather. They learn that the island is sinking and so they have to discover the lost submarine of Captain Nemo – another Verne creation – so they can escape. As with the first film, the premise is that “Vernians” are people who realize that the French father of science fiction was, actually, reporting fact.
The five leads each have a formulaic role to play and carry it off, from Guzmán’s playing the cowardly local whose skills reappear when they are needed to Caine mugging as the lovably eccentric grandfather. Hutcherson and Hudgens are the young characters the target audience identifies with while Dwayne Johnson shows a willingness to be silly as well as the action star. His big gag is a scene where he advices Sean to “pop your pecs” – flex his chest – to impress Kailani. It may be the most unusual use of 3D yet.
Don’t confuse this with good storytelling, though. There’s so much illogic that one stops worrying about it, treating the film as no more than a theme park ride. One example will suffice – the island is supposed to appear and disappear in an oceanic cycle, yet we see a “lost city” almost intact. When the island sinks again, the city is virtually destroyed. Why wasn’t it destroyed during all those earlier sinkings? (Answer: because then there would be no movie.)
“Journey 2” ends with a set up for “Journey 3,” and if you have the slightest familiarity with Jules Verne you’ll see it coming a mile off. This is a silly and disposable film, but if it gets kids interested in reading the original Verne novels, perhaps it won’t be an entire waste.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.