Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
This series of “Journey” films are a great idea.
Kid-friendly (filmed in) 3D action/adventure using classic science-fiction novels as a jumping-off point (Jules Verne, no less), using fantastical creatures, starring a hot young teen actor (Josh Hutcherson) and throwing in a few established stars along the way (Brendan Fraser in the first film, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine this time around). The series has all the makings of enormous hits.
So why do both of them, as Johnson might say as The Rock, absolutely suck?
Indeed, both of these films suffer heavily from the overly trite, ridiculous situations, too-conveniently-telegraphed or out-and-out ridiculous solutions to seemingly inescapable scenarios, and, worst of all, extraordinarily horrific dialogue.
“Journey 2” takes Hutcherson’s Sean Anderson, (sans Fraser, whose absence the film hardly goes to the trouble of explaining) and throws him into the mix with his new stepfather, Hank (Johnson, who looks like a “Hank” about as much as I look like a “Muhammad”), with a young teen hottie (Vanessa Hudgens) and her dad (Luis Guzman) in tow as the love interest and comedic relief, respectively.
The story this time around revolves around Sean looking to find his long-missing grandfather (Michael Caine…oops, I suppose I should throw in a spoiler alert for that; if there’s an actor playing him, they likely eventually run into him, right?), who has sent out a mysterious code that, when decoded, suggests that the Mysterious Island Verne wrote about years ago is real. This, of course, sets Sean and Hank out into an adventure with their two reluctant compatriots, and they find an island where the laws of nature are more or less reversed; ants, centipedes and bees look like trucks while elephants are small.
They soon discover that the Mysterious Island is also the lost city of Atlantis and apparently the home of Jonathan Swift’s Lilliputians from “Gulliver’s Travels” as well (don’t ask; it’s making my head hurt already trying to explain it all). So how is Atlantis not under water? The answer to that question would theoretically provide our heroes with the race against time that they so desperately need to make this an actual movie, so there you go. I use the term “theoretically” because the characters, while they keep saying things like “we have got to get off this island NOW,” don’t seem all too worried about their apocalyptic deadline and keep running off on side chases, shoehorning in pointless narrative threads about the relationship between grandparents and stepparents, and doing things like looking for gold, joyriding on the backs of bees and bouncing berries off of Johnson’s pecs.
This is hopefully the last of Johnson’s forays into Candy Land, as he appears to be transitioning back to more adult-style action roles. He manages to slip in one last raspberry to me by bastardizing one of his wrestling catchphrases into the most unfortunately tame “What in the blue heck?”
And if you thought that was bad, wait ’til you hear some of the other zingers; Johnson implores the lovestruck Sean to give his maiden fair the “pec pop of love,” which has nothing to do with her (despite the most uncomfortable, almost Michael Bay-esque camera-leer shot we get, complete with a pan down to her tank-top-covered ladyparts) and everything to do with Johnson’s own chest.
We also get Guzman doing his worst, offering one-liners in situations where everyone is plummeting presumably to their deaths, being chased by giant lizards or about to take death-defying leaps.
Yes, I know these are kids’ movies, and they need to take out some of the starch for younger audiences. But it’s not necessary to water a film down this much.
The film’s climax aboard Captain Nemo’s submarine, Nautilus, is a pretty cool scene, even though it again has nothing to do with Verne’s “Mysterious Island” and again ridiculously involves an electric eel.
There are quite a few extras on the Blu-ray version, so if you’re a fan of the film, you’ll at least get your money’s worth there. You get deleted scenes, a gag reel, an interactive map of the Mysterious Island and a few other tidbits, including the standard DVD and digital-copy download versions of the film.