Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is an attempt to extend the franchise of Journey to the Center of the Earth, a nearly forgotten hit from only four years ago. Both have little plot in common, though they were extremely loosely adapted from totally unrelated novels written by Jules Verne. That's it.
Action cutout Brendan Fraser has been replaced by his bad-movie soul mate Dwayne Johnson, who compensates for what he painfully lacks in dramatic chops with beefy enthusiasm. It's hard to imagine another matinee star using his physique as a special effect. (Watch the movie's 3-D highlight for Johnson bouncing red berries off his massive pecs right at the camera.)
Johnson plays Hank, stepfather to surly teen Sean (Josh Hutcherson), the only holdover from the "first" installment. When not crashing his dirt bike into neighbor's pools, Sean spends his time decoding secret messages from his globetrotting grandfather and searching for clues hidden in the text of 19th science fiction novels, which seems like a perfectly normal pastime for a red-blooded teen lad. Sean is a "Vernian," who still apparently believes that the works of Jules Verne were fact-based — but he should know better, having previously explored an underground world full of flesh-hungry dinosaurs. That little factoid is barely acknowledged here, but then again neither is geography, physics or logic. Hank cracks the code to discover a remote island, since he picked up cryptology in the Navy, along with geology, meteorology, zoology, navigation and any other skill the plot requires.
It turns out that the Island from Verne's 1874 book is real and filled with all manner of oddities, wonders and giant critters ready to chomp on intruders. Also along for the ride is a cowardly charter chopper pilot (Luis Guzman) and his hypersexualized teen daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), who the camera tends to ogle in semi-creepy ways. They spend most of their time running from corny-looking CGI monstrosities like a overgrown lizard, which is sort of a throwback to cheesy no-budget '50s flicks like King Dinosaur — sure, the effects are more detailed and expensive now but no more convincing. The fun really begins when gramps shows up, played with reckless abandon by Michael Caine, whose head-to-toe khaki's like Jungle Jim, and looking rather delighted to be cashing a check. Sir Michael is clearly having a laugh, hamming it up while riding on the back of a giant CGI bumblebee, and generally treating the material with the sly wink it deserves. If only it were that easy for the rest of us.
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