It’s been 25 years since I wrote my first movie review, which was for Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. My Dad took me to see it and, being 10 years old, I loved every minute of it, despite it being an awful, cheesy Indiana Jones rip off. On the drive home, I told my Dad how thrilling and exciting I thought it was (remember, I was 10) and he said (either as genuine encouragement or in an effort to shut me up), “why don’t you write a movie review when we get home?” So I did, and I’ve been writing movie reviews ever since.
I thought a lot about Allan Quatermain while I was watching Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, the sequel to the very loose 2008 adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was a joyful 3D showcase in the theater but a drag to sit through at home. The follow-up, also in 3D, loses lead Brendan Fraser (they don’t even mention his character) but again co-stars Josh Hutcherson as a brainy teen whose love of Jules Verne novels gives him clues to the actual locations they depict.
This time, he teams up with his step-dad, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and, breaking an impossible code in less than five minutes, learn where Verne’s Mysterious Island AND Atlantis are on the map. With the help of a washed up helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman), his attractive daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) and Grandpa (Michael Caine, somehow keeping his dignity intact), they find themselves stuck on an island loaded with gorgeous scenery, gold and bees the size of the Goodyear blimp.
This is a dopey adventure romp with truly terrible dialogue, a cast that has done (and deserves) much better and a really bad, failed “comic relief” turn from the normally reliable Guzman.
On the other hand, were I still 10, I would have loved this as much as Allan Quatermain, or Return of the Jedi, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or all the other movies Journey 2 shamelessly rips off.
For local audiences, you get islander Johnson (who also co-produced), underplaying and always amusing–especially when he plays “What a Wonderful World” on the ukulele (during the movie and in the closing credits). There are also Hawaiian locations (some of which get partially obscured by CGI ruins), Guzman sporting an official Magnum P.I. aloha shirt and a Brandscombe Richmond cameo.
Like the first installment, this is something you want to see in theaters instead of catching later on DVD–the CGI and accompanying 3-D effects are excellent. When Johnson threw a spear directly at my face, I ducked.
Hutcherson’s Bridge to Terabithia and Johnson’s Race to Witch Mountain are both superior family movies in every way, but this one has a justifiable PG-rating and should delight children not too young (the monsters may be scary for the youngest keiki).
Hudgens rocks the short shorts but appears to be trying really hard to not crack up, Hutcherson is too old and too buff to pass as a high school geek (more like the star quarterback) and Caine is hardly a Sean Connery substitute, though you have to give it to him, he looks good in safari duds.
It’s not a good movie but it’s definitely a guilty pleasure. Just try not to smile when Johnson battles a giant electric eel. It’s that kind of movie.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Rated PG/94 Min.