After making the transition from the ring to the screen, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson eschewed action fan’s expectations by becoming the human equivalent of ipecac syrup in a string of kiddie-friendly but adult-sickening films. Luckily for our sensitive constitutions, he then finally ditched the family film market and started doing what he was born to do – being a badass – to much acclaim.
So it’s a bit strange that Johnson has now gone back to that family-centric style of films in this, a toothless and unambitious sequel that may appeal to some kids but will probably bore everybody else.
The original Journey to the Centre of the Earth was not exactly a masterpiece, but it was a fun all-ages romp bouyed by an always game Brendan Fraser, great CGI courtesy of director and visual effects whiz Eric Brevig, and action set pieces that made full use of the best 3D to be seen at the time. (It was actually the first locally released film to make use of the now standard RealD polarized glass style of 3D.)
Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues, Brevig was unable to return for the sequel and with him gone, Fraser was no longer interested as well. So cue up The Rock as Hank, an ex-marine and recent stepfather to Sean Anderson, played by Josh Hutcherson, reprising his role from the first film as Fraser’s nephew.
After receiving a mysterious encoded radio broadcast about Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island from Sean’s Verne obsessed grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), the mismatched pair set off on an adventure to find the fabled Island, along the way encountering professional skimpy shorts wearer, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) and her walking poop joke father, Gabato (Luis Guzman). Soon the group are dodging tornadoes, getting chased by over protective giant lizards, getting involved in aerial dogfights with enormous birds while astride massive bees and even solving a couple other Vernian mysteries.
The problem is that director Brad Peyton – whose only other significant work is Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore – turns all of these potentially exciting sequences into predictable ho hum affairs, not once managing to wow, despite literally having an entire world of marvellous CGI wonder available for use. Even the 3D, used so magnificently in the first film, is wall to wall average here, with the only slightly noticeable exception being an explosion of feathers as two birds collide.
Peyton’s middle of the road directing sensibilities is also not helped by Marc and Brian Gunn’s Swiss cheese script (stinky and filled with holes), and the usually reliable Johnson and Caine acting as if they’re not talking to the rest of the cast but rather involved in a laundry detergent infomercial that only they are aware of. All of this is interspersed by shots of Hudgens looking cute in tiny clothes and Guzman dumbly overacting his way into faceful after faceful of giant animal excrement.
Hutcherson appears to be the only person that’s actually showed up for the correct movie, and is responsible for the film’s solitary entertaining chase sequence. His performance is definitely not going be garnering any acclaim any time soon, but at least he’s putting in some effort. He also appears to have added a whole lot of muscle to his frame since we last saw him, probably as a result of his role as Peeta in the upcoming Hunger Games movies.
Speaking of muscles… Dear sweet Xenu, I pray that I never have to see Johnson’s “Pec Pop of Love” for as long as I live, and possibly even longer. (Surely even poltergeists have taste, right?). The sequence is genuinely funny for the first 10 seconds, and provides the film’s first real laughs, but then it quickly spirals into… Well, actually I’m not sure what that was but I expect videos of people mocking it on Youtube to show up any second now.
In the end, the film is just filled with far too much low-brow physical humour to appeal to anybody other than the youngest of audiences, while the by the numbers action sequences will most likely lose the attention of older viewers fairly quickly. I never expected much from this Journey 2 other than some lighthearted entertainment, but even those minor expectations were not met successfully. The film displays some fairly impressive computer generated fauna and flora, but that’s simply not enough for to recommend it with a clear conscience.
Here’s hoping that they don’t follow through with the
threat foreshadowing for a 3rd sequel at the end of the film, but judging by the film’s early box office takings – despite it’s very poor critical reception – I have a feeling that we might unfortunately be going on another Journey very soon.
Last Updated: March 9, 2012