Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
ďJourney 2: The Mysterious IslandĒ is light, airy family entertainment that actually ends up being too light and airy. Itís one of those films that may mildly amuse you while watching it, but not much will stick with you. In fact, you might just forget the whole film not long after itís over. Thatís not saying itís a completely bad film, just that itís lacking in enough substance to actually make it worth your while to go see.
Working as a loose sequel to ďJourney to the Center of the Earth,Ē the story involves Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), who believes that his grandfather has sent him a coded transmission. His stepdad, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), breaks the code and discovers that it refers to a mysterious island, made famous in a novel by Jules Verne. After piecing together where the island is from various maps from other authors referred to in the message, the two set off on a journey to get there.
For this purpose, they hire a helicopter pilot, Gabato (Luis Guzman), who, along with his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), agrees to take them there despite it being in very dangerous waters. On their way there, they encounter a storm and crash on the island where they soon discover Seanís grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine). However, during a tour of the island, Hank comes to realize that it has merely days before it sinks into the ocean, leaving them without much time to think of a plan of escape.
This is a somewhat interesting story, itís just that the filmmakers decided not to do very much with it. Itís clear that they want to make it into some kind of action adventure that audiences can get into, and while I can see younger kids possibly getting into it, I donít see anyone much older being able to get fully engaged in the story.
For one thing, there are several bizarre plot points that kept piling up that left questions unanswered. For example, at the start of the story, Sean breaks into a satellite facility to get the encoded message and tries to evade police who eventually catch him, but absolutely nothing becomes of this once he gets home. Then, when he gets the message and wants to go on the journey, Hank suddenly thinks itís a good idea to go with him for some bonding time, despite the whole situation being quite dangerous and mysterious, not to mention that Sean is merely assuming that this is his grandfather sending him the message.
Then thereís the way the story changes shortly after they arrive on the island. Not long after they meet Alexander, the story switches to them having to escape from the island, all of which leads up to having to jumpstart a conveniently placed submarine with an electric eel. Yes, you read that right: jumpstarting a submarine with an electric eel. However, this is an adventure involving the fantastical world of Jules Verne, so we can at least let that slide.
The performances are not particularly noteworthy. Johnson seems to be getting better at acting a little more natural, though I couldíve done without the scene in which he sings and plays the ukulele. Hutcherson has already proven that heís quite talented in ďThe Kids Are All Right,Ē but thereís just not much here that he has to work with. Guzman seems to be around only for a few attempts at comic relief, none of which are particularly funny. Strangest of all though is that Michael Caine appears to be on autopilot throughout the whole film like he knows that this kind of film is beneath him.
There are some things to like about ďJourney 2: The Mysterious IslandĒ such as the design of the island itself. It certainly looks like something right out of a fantasy. Itís got a volcano shooting out gold, giant insects and birds, and even tiny elephants. The story is mildly engaging, but without much substance, thereís just not a whole lot to connect to here. As per usual, when given the choice between 3D and 2D, I chose a 2D screening in which the film looked very bright and colorful, so I would recommend you do the same. The last thing I need is having a berry bouncing towards me off of Dwayne Johnsonís chest. 2.5/4 stars.