Review: Journey 2 The Mysterious Island
PLOT: After receiving a mysterious message from his grandfather, a young man obsessed by adventure and stories by Jules Verne makes plans to look for the Lost City of Atlantis. In the hopes of bringing the young boy to the realization that his grandfather simply has a big imagination, his mom’s boyfriend offers to travel with him to search for the mysterious island. Once they arrive, they hire a helicopter pilot who brings his daughter along, and the group end up on a whirlwind adventure.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND has been given a PG rating. It features Dwayne Johnson along with giant insects in a special effects heavy escapade. And most importantly this sequel to the Brendan Fraser starring JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is well deserving of the children friendly rating. If you are expecting a grand spectacle of CGI and edge of your seat tension that will thrill you to the core, you will be sorely disappointed. This is the type of “cliffhanger” that kids will enjoy thanks to the always amiable Dwayne Johnson who plays mom’s boyfriend to rebellious teenager Josh Hutcherson – Fraser’s nephew in the original.
In this sequel, Hutcherson plays Sean, a teen adjusting to life with his mom Liz (Kristen Davis) and her tough new boyfriend named Hank (Johnson) – Fraser is not involved in the sequel at all. When Sean gets a Morse code message from someone he thinks may be his grandfather (Michael Caine), he gets a little help from Hank to decipher it. The message claims that old gramps has discovered the Lost City of Atlantis and he insists that Sean come join him on his journey. Thankfully, this family is fully loaded so they could afford just flying off to the middle of nowhere. With this, Hank convinces Liz that if the young man goes on the journey, he’ll realize his grand dad is nutty so they can come home and no harm is done. We all know that if that were the case, JOURNEY 2 would be really short.
Here is the deal. The idea of another Dwayne Johnson kiddie adventure isn’t something that really excites me. The first film was pretty terrible and the adventure was lacking in the thrills department, at least for the adults that are dragged to it. And like 2008’s JOURNEY, the latest installment is also in 3D with tons of stuff coming at the audience. Some of the 3D effects actually worked, especially when Atlantis is fully explored. For this kind of movie and its intended audience, the 3D is good enough to take the young ones to a bargain matinee. If your theatre doesn’t offer bargain matinees maybe just stick with good old 2D.
As far as an action adventure, this is strictly for the family set. For those of you who love Johnson but prefer the more badass version of the man, you won’t get that here. He exchanges a number of goofy jokes with fellow cast member Luis Guzmán, a helicopter guide with a pretty daughter named Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). Thus he lets his silly side shine whether the jokes work or not. In one of the more memorable moments, Johnson picks up the ukulele Kailani has been carrying (why, I will never understand) and he sings his own version of “What a Wonderful World.” Sure it is a little ridiculous, but it’s hard to resist Johnson’s surprisingly decent voice and his infectious energy. And trust me, children will love this part.
The problem here is simply the fact that you know the outcome well in advance. There is no surprise whatsoever. Nobody is in real danger, even though there is no way in hell you could survive some of what happens here. Cliffhangers’ generally have to present a least a little suspense, and perhaps if you are younger you may find it here. This is assuredly one of those times where you have to leave your brain at the door. Rarely do you see giant ants, massive spiders and helicopter size bees and realize they are helping the good guys. There is no bad guy aside from a massive bird and a lizard. Generally huge insect movies are presented as schlocky horror. And the fact that the bees are so friendly that they allow the humans to ride upon them, you have to question what Brian and Mark Gunn were smoking when they wrote this. Cool man… big, friendly bees!
As painful as this could have been, it is actually a somewhat pleasant diversion. If you have to take your children to see a family friendly movie you could certainly do worse. Most of the effects are decent, the actors do a good enough job, and it is always fun to see Michael Caine chew scenery in bad movies, so there is goodness to be had. Now if you are just a fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you prefer your tough guy tough, why would you even bother? JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is a children’s adventure that will introduce them to Jules Verne in a fun and memorable way. You might even convince them to pick up the books with the pleasant way they introduce the legendary author. This is a slightly educational, generally fun family film. The story is a bit outlandish and the dialogue is far from smart, but the young ones will be entertained and it won’t be too painful for the adults thanks to Johnson’s likability factor.