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

Stunt driver and stunt driving instructor Bobby Ore helps a student master the 180 degree slide at Atlanta Motorsports Park Saturday, June 11, 2016, in Dawsonville, Ga. Ore said he recognized a significant shift in more films and television shows being brought to Georgia a couple years ago. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Stunt driver school trains for Georgia's film industry needsStunt drivers are in high demand in Georgia with movies such as "Furious 7" and "Need for Speed" being filmed within the state
The Associated Press12 hours ago
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton arrive for a rally at McGonigle Hall at Temple University in Philadelphia, Friday, July 29, 2016. Clinton and Kaine will begin a three day bus tour through the rust belt. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Poof! 'Ghostbusters' tweet cheering Clinton deletedA tweet from Sony Pictures' "Ghostbusters" account that many interpreted as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton has disappeared as quickly as a phantom
The Associated Press1 day ago
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2016 file photo, director Steven Caple Jr. poses for a portrait to promote his film, "The Land", during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Director's debut explores 'The Land' with Nas, Badu helpIn his feature debut, writer-director Steven Caple Jr. explores the lives of skateboarders in Cleveland, who get caught up in dealing drugs to fund their ambitions
The Associated Press1 day ago
This image released by HBO shows filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, left, and businessman Haim Saban during the filming of the documentary, "Meet the Donors," premiering Monday, Aug. 1, on HBO. (HBO via AP)
Pelosi tracks the mega-donors to political campaignsFilmmaker Alexandra Pelosi reveals the people who contribute millions of dollars to political campaigns in a HBO documentary
The Associated Press1 day ago
A spectators watches the unveiling of the Chris Kyle statue, Thursday, July 28, 2016 at the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza in Odessa, Texas. A memorial for slain Navy Seal and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle has been unveiled in the West Texas city where he was born in 1974. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)
Memorial to slain Navy Seal Chris Kyle unveiled in TexasA memorial for slain Navy Seal and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle has been unveiled in the West Texas city where he was born in 1974
The Associated Press2 days ago
Movie News