Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
What It Is
Some four years after his last journey, Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is now a full-fledged movie teenager, complete with an attitude. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island explains this in cursory (hackneyed) fashion: as you learned in 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, his father has disappeared and now in the new film, his uncle (Brendan Fraser) is gone too. This means Sean’s in need of a father figure.
This mostly disorganized sequel delivers two: his good guy, former Navy SEAL stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson) and his long-lost grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine). When Sean discovers a secret, super-Vernian message from the latter, the former helps Sean decipher the code and then insists on coming along on the journey, hoping to turn it into quality bonding time. They fly from Dayton (where, Sean reminds you more than once, he’s bored) to Palau, where they enlist the services of the helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzmán). He only agrees because he’s a very good dad (in his way): he wants to be able to send his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to college. Smitten as soon as he sees her, Sean is thrilled that she comes along too.
Barely making their way through a storm, they crash-land on the titular island and immediately meet up with Alexander, who serves as a tour guide for the many creatures who live there, from miniature elephants and giant lizards to big fuzzy bees they can ride in order to escape even bigger birds (the chase is a little like quidditch without the score count). The movie’s tendency to combine mythologies ensures the crew faces an assortment of obstacles: they soon learn they’re on a deadline to get off the island, as the Mysterious Island is actually Atlantis (who knew!?), and it’s sinking again.
And so they go in search of Captain Nemo’s 19th- century submarine, the Nautilus, and along the way, they learn that family can be disappointing and change shape, but the best family has your back in emergencies. The various fathers all come to like each other, Sean and Kailani like each other, and the kids like their dads. Even Sean’s mom gets to appear in a final scene back home, suggesting she might be in another sequel, headed toward the moon (Apparently, no one holds it against her that she used to be played by Jane Wheeler.)
Why It’s Fun
The Warner Bros. cartoon that precedes the film, “Daffy’s Rhapsody,” drags Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd into 3D, with minimal payoff. The violence duck hunter Elmer Fudd tries so hard to inflict on the duck is standard and would be harsh, except that Daffy is very lucky.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island has its characters running around almost as they’re cartoons, with a similar sort of blandness and lack of originality, each encounter with an obstacle overcome, as you know each will be.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of the Rock know well what he does, that is, consistently outshine his material. In a word, he’s charming no matter the circumstance, and a decent actor too. Here he’s extra charming, selling a part that is excruciatingly silly and predictable from jump. But it’s hard for even the Rock to get ahead of the sentimental bits here, as Hank is at once the ideal action hero (with his US military background, the SEAL part being exceptionally popular these days), the ideal husband (to Sean’s mom, played by Kristin Davis, left at home), and the ideal dad. He’s even the ideal abandoned son, demonstrated in a backstory that makes Sean appreciate his vulnerability and his strength.
If fans of the first film exist, they might appreciate that the sequel is that rarity, a better movie than the original. Sadly, that’s not saying much. Absent Fraser, usually genial if not always compelling, the movie offers the one-two punch of Caine (whose script choices are increasingly suspect) and Johnson (see above). They’re fine, and help to bring both weight and humor to this flimsy adventure.
Fans of Vanessa Hudgens, on the other hand, may be hoping she signs with a new agent soon. An appealing juvenile performer, she’s caught here in a part that has her zinging between two poles: doting daughter and obnoxious object of desire.
What To Be Aware Of
The film opens with a sequence demonstrating Sean’s frustrated teen-boyness, as he breaks into an office to steal a document, then escapes the police on his motorcycle. The chase scene makes lively use of the 3D and conjures slick chaos, ending when Sean flips his bike into a neighbor’s swimming pool. As fun as it looks, kids, don’t try this at home.
A brief scene has made the rounds in promotional trailers, in which Hank shows off the “pec pop of love,” which he claims will win over any woman. As he pops his pecs, Sean tosses berries, which provide minor 3D entertainment.
The helicopter crash is a bit frenzied, with tipping cameras, fast cuts and lots of noise.
The film indulges in some predictable humor, including giant bird droppings.
5 out of 10
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzmán, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis
Studio: New Line Cinema
US Premiere: February 10, 2012
UK Premiere: February 3, 2012