Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

21 Feb

Title: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Year: 2012
Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, based on a story by themselves and Richard Outten, loosely based on the novel by Jules Verne
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis, Luis Guzmán
MPAA Rating: PG, some adventure action, and brief mild language
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Metacritic: 41

 

In the summer of 2008, Journey to the Center of the Earth, a $60 million movie starring Brendan Fraser, opened to really solid results worldwide, ending its run with over $240 million grossed worldwide and solid DVD sales numbers as well. So that meant that a sequel, which shot early last year, was a no-brainer, with the one big roadblock being the fact that Mr. Fraser was unable to return due to scheduling issues, as was Anita Briem, the female lead of the first film. What do you do then? Well, you call Dwayne Johnson, of course. The guy pumped in some new blood to the Fast and Furious franchise with last year’s Fast Five (which I gave a strong B+ to) and that film went on to gross over $625 million, and was also added to the mix for this summer’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation. So yes, looks like this is your guy is you want to get some new life into a franchise, even if it’s on its second installment.

How did this film ends up faring compared to its predecessor, though? Well, it’s a bit worse actually. Not that that’s going to stop people from consuming this one like crazy, since it’s already tallied over $180 worldwide and sits as the highest-grossing film of the year so far even though it’s only been out in the U.S. for ten days. So yeah, commercially this one’s doing just fine, but quality-wise it’s certainly lacking. I’m guessing if you’re about eleven years old then this one will do the trick for you just fine, but adults will be left wondering just how much they had to pay Michael Caine to agree to star as the missing grandfather they do to find to the titular mysterious island.

The fact is that, though thoroughly unambitious, I think this movie is pleasant enough if you have a kid you want to have shut up and be still for an hour and a half. Josh Hutcherson, the one guy from the first movie that did stay on for this one, is back as Sean, who at the start of the film receives a distress signal in code form. His stepfather Hank, played by Mr. Johnson, helps him solve the code in an effort to bond with him, and the code tells them to look for a trio of books, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels and Mysterious Island, which were all based on a mythical island that seemingly didn’t exist. After getting the different maps of the island provided in each book, putting them one on top of the other and shining a light through them, they discover what look to be coordinates to get there.

Hank and Sean’s mom don’t believe that the mysterious island actually exists or that it’s Sean’s grandfather who discovered it and is sending the signal, but they consider that this would be a good opportunity for Hank to finally bond with Sean, who’s usually closed off, and decide to indulge him. So Hank and Sean fly off to Palau, where they rent a private helicopter ran by a father-daughter team; the father played by the awesome Luis Guzmán and the daughter played by Vanessa Hudgens, who becomes Sean’s love interest for the film. While flying they get hit by a strange storm and they crash – where else? – on the island where they – obviously – find Sean’s grandfather.

After you get over the fact that Hank indulged Sean on taking such a ludicrous trip, you can start look at the island with its volcano and its waterfalls and the fact that every animal that’s usually big is tiny and vice versa (which is what inspired Gulliver’s Travels, of course); which of course means that you can expect Mr. Hutcherson and Ms. Hudgens to ride on the backs of giant bees. And there’s also, inexplicable as its existence here may be, the lost city of Atlantis. And for some reason I found this much more enjoyable than I should have, I didn’t like the film but I really could have disliked it much more. It’s rare to have a film in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sings ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ in its entirety be this bearable.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island may be a tad worse than the first film in this franchise, that’s true, but in Dwayne Johnson it found a star that’s actually far more charming than Brendan Fraser could ever be so he makes going along for the ride easy to do. Not to mention that Josh Hutcherson is obviously better with age now than he was three and a half years ago, having appeared in 2010’s The Kids Are All Right (which I gave an A+ to) and about to break out in a huge way once The Hunger Games premieres a month from now. And yeah, Michael Caine will do everything he can to stop this film from being in the montages that are made when lifetime achievement awards are handed out, but he’s still Michael Caine and he’s still awesome. So yeah, what I think I’m trying to say is that this film, though not good, is certainly much more enjoyable than it should be.

Grade: C+

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