By Michael Phillips 2015-07-10

By Michael Phillips

Tribune Newspapers Critic

1 1/2 stars

In its own sweetly bombastic way, the 2008 remake of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" did the job, the job being a 21st-century 3-D bash starring Brendan Fraser -- an actor who gives his all to the green screen, every time -- and loosely based on the 19th-century Jules Verne adventure, a natural for the movies. Its script proceeded from the idea that Verne, science fiction visionary, was in reality writing about real places and genuine fantastic phenomena only disguised as fiction.

Now comes the Fraserless sequel, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." And it's only disguised as fun.

Take away the 3-D shots of berries bouncing off Dwayne Johnson's vibrating pecs, and you have a pretty scrawny experience. Director Brad Peyton takes the reins for "Journey 2"; previously he gave us "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," one of the tougher sits of recent epochs.

The visual quality of "Journey 2" is such that while Peyton and company filmed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the results resemble "H.R. Pufnstuf" or the AMC theater chain's concessions promo, the one where placid teenagers hoisting 188-ounce cups of Coke are transported to a world akin to "Avatar."

Carrying over from the '08 film, a newly beefed-up Josh Hutcherson returns as Sean, now 17 and more sullen than ever. He has survived his journey to the center of the earth, but now his uncle, the Fraser character, is out of the picture. Sean's ex-Navy stepfather (Johnson) hasn't yet breached the boy's defense mechanisms.

Then comes a cryptogram from Sean's geographically distant grandfather (Michael Caine, decked out like a veteran member of the Indiana Jones fan club) containing news that Verne's mysterious island was no imaginative figment. Sean and stepfather Hank take off to the South Pacific to investigate and hook up with an islander (Luis Guzman) with a helicopter, a teenage daughter with college aspirations (Vanessa Hudgens) and a penchant for the broadest, most infantile brand of mugging. Guzman's usually a lot better than this, but then, so is everybody in "Journey 2."

The mysterious island's attractions include miniature elephants and giant ants, but the movie is weirdly uninterested in its own critter potential beyond the giant flying bees. These can be ridden like big, fuzzy, flying horses, but the magic isn't there. The bees won't give stop-motion effects master Ray Harryhausen, who created the giant crab and other beasties for the 1961 "Mysterious Island," anything to worry about.

Hutcherson spits his lines out as quickly as possible, which you appreciate, because the way the likable Johnson wrestles with his lines ("It looks like the liquefaction has tripled overnight!") you think, well, it's a living. Capt. Nemo's submarine makes an appearance, as does the lost continent of Atlantis, and the script by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn sets up a promising mashup of literary antecedents ("Gulliver's Travels" and "Treasure Island" to go with the Verne stuff). But the promise goes unfulfilled, and the film is preceded by an equally disappointing 3-D Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd cartoon "Daffy's Rhapsody," a grating, pushy comedown from the Olympian heights of "Duck Amuck" or the gorgeous and eternal "What's Opera, Doc?"

MPAA rating: PG (for some adventure action and brief, mild language).

Running time: 1:34.

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Hank); Josh Hutcherson (Sean); Michael Caine (Alexander); Vanessa Hudgens (Kailani); Luis Guzman (Gabato); Kristin Davis (Liz).

Credits: Directed by Brad Peyton; written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, based on the stories by Jules Verne; produced by Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson and Charlotte Huggins. A Warner Bros. release.

Back to Movie Details

Movie News

This is a a British Movietone logo made available Tuesday Sept. 27, 2016. The Associated Press have purchased British Movietone film archive in a deal meant to cement the news agency's collection of historic video. The newsreels, acquired from Newsreel Archive, were originally shown in movie theaters twice a week and were the first to have sound and color. (AP Photo)
Associated Press buys British Movietone film archiveAssociated Press buys British Movietone film archive in a deal meant to cement the news agency's collection of historic video
The Associated Press1 hour ago
FILE -  In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, Chadwick Boseman arrives at the premiere of the film "The Birth of a Nation" at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. The newest members of the film academy say the #OscarsSoWhite crisis inspired them to seek membership. At a private reception Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, for the latest academy inductees, actors Boseman and Rita Wilson were among the new members who said they joined the organization to advance the diversity discussion in the film industry. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
AP Exclusive: New film academy members talk #OscarsSoWhiteThe newest members of the film academy say the #OscarsSoWhite crisis inspired them to seek membership
The Associated Press3 hours ago
David Strasberg, son of American acting coach Lee Strasberg who was a friend and mentor to actress Marilyn Monroe, walks past an oversized photograph of Monroe at an exhibition of her personal effects in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Clothing, handwritten notes, and dozens of other personal items that the iconic actress left to the elder Strasberg were in Beijing on Tuesday for a private viewing by Chinese collectors before being auctioned in Los Angeles in November. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Marilyn Monroe's dresses, notes, checkbook seen before saleMarilyn Monroe's dress from "Some Like It Hot." Handwritten notes and letters expressing the Hollywood icon's inner thoughts and, at times, despair
The Associated Press6 hours ago
Filmmakers Ken and Ric Burns honored by historical societyBrothers and fellow filmmakers Ken and Ric Burns have received an honorary prize from the New-York Historical Society
The Associated Press10 hours ago
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber attend the "St. Vincent" premiere in New York. The celebrity couple said in a joint statement Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, they are separating as a couple. Schreiber and Watts have been together since 2005 and have two children together. They are not married.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts separating after 11 yearsLiev Schreiber and Naomi Watts are separating after 11 years together
The Associated Press14 hours ago
Movie News